S.E. Williams | Contributor
Although more than three months have passed since the nation’s economy slowed due to the impact of COVID-19 there remains individuals still seeking clarity regarding their eligibility for Unemployment Insurance assistance as the pandemic continues to impact the economy and the number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations grow daily.
Hemet resident Barbara Kimber reached out to the IE Voice/Black Voice News after several attempts to gain an understanding through the California Employment Development Department (EDD) as to whether she qualified for any assistance due to her circumstances. “I’m getting unclear answers about whether I qualify,” she opined. “I’m not sure if I should apply and under what program.”
Kimber’s unemployment benefits were exhausted by the end of 2019 and she was seeking employment when the coronavirus struck. At the point when Governor Newsom issued his executive stay-at-home order in March, Kimber had just secured a position; however, her hiring was placed on hold due to the pandemic.
With her unemployment benefits being fully exhausted in 2019, she was unclear regarding whether she qualified for benefits under COVID-19 unemployment programs including benefits under the CARES Act and she has sought answers since regarding whether she qualifies for any benefits; and if so, how to apply.
The IE Voice/Black Voice News reached out to Barry White, EDD Public Information Officer, who provided the following clarity.
According to White, for those who previously filed an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim within the last 52 weeks and have not exhausted their benefits, to receive benefits they are required to reopen their claim to resume those benefits. “The agency further encourages those who need benefits to apply via UI Online as it is the quickest and easiest way to get results,” White encouraged.
White further advised anyone who has not yet exhausted their benefits but has ceased benefit certification—for example, they were in the process of being hired when the stay-at-home order was issued and their hiring was placed on hold, will find their UI claim has become inactive. “These individuals are eligible to receive benefits.”
To do so however, according to White, he/she needs to reopen their claim. This option is only available to those whose claims were ‘filed’ within the last 52 weeks. On the other hand, if a person’s benefit year has ended, they must file a new claim by following this link.
A different set of guidelines apply to those who have exhausted their benefits and are still within their current claim year. Under the CARES Act, the EDD began automatically filing Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) extensions beginning May 27 for those who exhausted all available benefits on their claim with a benefit year that started on or after June 2, 2019.
White explained how these individuals will receive a notice through the mail about five to seven days after the PEUC extension is filed. Those who have or will receive such notices are given instructions on how to certify for “extension benefit payments” provided they are still unemployed.
White also encouraged those with claims to, “Watch for updates in the Inbox of their UI online account.”
Those like Kimber who ran out of their regular UI benefits sometime after July 2018 and are not part of the more recent group of those who exhausted benefits as detailed above, there is another set of guidelines.
White advised, “[I]n early July, the EDD will begin mailing notices to those who remain out of work [for them] to apply for another UI claim through UI Online, if they have not done so already. “The EDD will subsequently check to see whether they qualify for a new regular claim.”
Finally, White was asked whether there are UI options available for others who were on disability and whose disability benefits expired before (or after) the onset of Covid-19 but felt unable to return to work?
White explained, “Depending on the individual circumstances, a person in this scenario may be eligible for benefits.” He suggested he/she refer to the “Eligibility” section of EDD’s COVID-19 Disability Insurance FAQs. And suggested, “[I]f you have exhausted your available DI benefits but your disability is continuing, you may want to consider applying for disability benefits through Social Security.”