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Lost Income Because of COVID-19? How Unemployment Benefits Can Work for You.


As the pandemic spurred by the novel coronavirus thickens throughout the world, the economic implications for U.S. workers are looking grim. Unemployment claims have sharply risen in recent weeks, and experts predict a “torrent” of job losses to occur before things can begin to improve.

While the federal government has intervened with some measures to protect paid sick leave and free COVID-19 testing for most Americans, these don’t directly address employees’ immediate economic woes. If your employer is one of the majority of businesses deemed “non-essential” and ordered to ordered to shut down in Los Angeles, you may have faced a drastic reduction in hours or have been laid off.

If you’re in a situation where you’ve lost your job or have had your hours drastically reduced due to the impact of the novel coronavirus, you are likely to qualify for unemployment benefits in California. Here’s some of what you should know about how the California Employment Development Department (EDD) is handling unemployment claims due to COVID-19

Unpaid Waiting Period Waived by Governor

Under normal circumstances, the EDD makes unemployment claimants wait a week after they’ve become unemployed before they can receive benefits. This means that although someone applied for benefits the day they lost their job, the EDD would normally not account for that week in their claim.

The outbreak of COVID-19, however, presents a situation that’s anything but normal. That’s why California Governor Gavin Newson issued an executive order on March 12 that waives the one-week waiting period. When you file a successful unemployment insurance claim with the EDD, you should be paid for the week you lost your job during the COVID-19 outbreak.

When Workers Are Sick or Quarantined

When workers experience wage loss because of an illness or injury not caused by their job, they can apply for short-term disability benefits. If you were exposed to the novel coronavirus and have been ill or subject to quarantine, you can apply for Disability Insurance with the EDD if you’re unable to work because of it.

You’ll need to prove your diagnosis or exposure, however, but they can be certified by a medical professional. Payments are around 60-70 percent of your wages but may only go as high as $1,300 per week.

Parents and Caregivers

If you’re parent of a child whose school as closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak, caring for your children throughout the day might cause you to miss work or incur lost wages due to the new level of care you need to provide. You can file an unemployment insurance claim to make up for your lost income, but you will be scrutinized for factors such as the availability of alternative childcare options and whether or not your work can be done remotely.

Filing a Paid Family Leave claim is an option for workers who lost wages because they were caring for a loved one who was ill with or quarantined for COVID-19. Successfully filing for this claim can mean receiving six weeks of paid benefits – around 60-70 percent of normal wages – for people who needed to take time off of work to care for a very ill relative. However, like disability insurance, you may only be paid as much as $1,300 per week, even if 70 percent of your normal weekly rate is greater than that amount.

Independent Contractors

If you are an independent contractor or self-employed and are now out of work, unfortunately your options are more limited, but it’s still possible to file an unemployment insurance claim if you’re affected by COVID-19. Eligibility to receive benefits relies on whether you or an employer paid into unemployment insurance programs within the last 5-18 months.

Important considerations include that such contributions could have been made at a prior job, or you were misclassified as an independent contractor when you were, in fact, an employee. You can also file Disability Insurance claims or benefit from a Paid Family Leave claim.

Can I Collect Disability and Unemployment Claim Benefits at the Same Time?

While you can file for Disability Insurance and Unemployment Insurance payouts at the same time, you will only be paid for one claim at a time. That said, you can start off collecting benefits with either type of claim and then transition to collecting benefits with the other claim when circumstances change.

In other words, you can collect Disability Insurance benefits if you become sick with COVID-19, and transition to Unemployment Insurance Benefits if you lost your job because of the illness. Likewise, if you lost your job because of COVID-19, you could file for Unemployment Insurance benefits and switch to Disability Insurance if you become ill with the novel corona virus.

Representing Workers in Employment Law Matters

Applying for unemployment can be a laborious process. Everything about your claim will be scrutinized by the EDD and even just a few errors or a poorly phrased statement could trigger delays and penalties against your claim.

While it’s not necessary to have a lawyer guide you through this process, the attorneys of K2 Employment Law Group know how to navigate unemployment insurance claims if you’re unsure about how to proceed. If you believe you were unlawfully terminated from your job, you can also benefit from a free consultation with us were we can help you determine if you have a viable claim.

If you need help from experienced attorneys who can guide you through this process, reach out to us by contacting K2 Employment Law Group online or calling (800) 590-7674.

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