SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — After weeks of waiting, millions of self-employed Californians were finally supposed to be able to apply for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance on Tuesday.
But by 9:30 in the morning, the long-awaited Pandemic Unemployment application had crashed.
“It was gone. It said this website cannot be found,” said Danielle.
“Yeah, that happened to my wife three times, ” Massimo added. “After six weeks of going nuts and trying to cover bills and then you get to this point, it’s like the promised land and then nothing is working.”
On Tuesday, CBS13 spoke with several of the estimated 5.4 million Californians who don’t qualify for regular unemployment. That includes the self-employed, part-time and gig workers who have been waiting six long weeks for the EDD to program its computers just so they could apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
But even those who were able to log on before the system crashed say they struggled to figure out how to apply and were stumped by some of the questions.
“I was on the phone with two separate people and we were all trying to figure out,” said Danielle.
For instance, one question asks: “Are you currently self-employed (have your own business or work as an independent contractor) or plan to become self-employed? If you are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, click No.”
“It was a yes and no question. You kind of just had to pick one,” said Nichole.
Then there’s the question asking if you previously applied for unemployment. The EDD told everyone to apply last month, even the self-employed who were then denied and told to wait for the new application.
“I know a lot of people said yes, but I said no for that,” said Christina.”Technically, we really didn’t file for unemployment.”
But she’s concerned she may have answered wrong and it could delay her benefits.
Many were also confused by a notice on the application instructions stating there would be a seven-day waiting period despite the governor’s promises. The notice read: “Important: The first week after you file your claim is normally a seven day waiting period. Benefits cannot be paid for this week. However, you must certify for benefits to satisfy the waiting period requirement.”
That contradicts the Governor’s assertion on Tuesday that “there’ll be 24 to 48-hour turn round in terms of those check being distributed.”
In fact, in light of the PUA roll-out failures on Tuesday, some say they’re becoming increasingly frustrated by the governor’s press conferences.
“Why are you telling the whole state that millions of people are getting paid when millions of people are not getting paid?” asked Danielle.
“He’s like Oprah or Ellen,” added Nichole. “It’s like you’ll get a car, and you get a car. And none of us have got a car. It’s all like broken promises.”
The governor did acknowledge that more work needed to be done and that getting unemployment benefits out is a top priority for his administration.
CBS13 asked the EDD to clarify some the confusing questions and respond to the issues we’ve heard from viewers. We sent two emails with questions before 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, but did not hear back by deadline. We will update this story when we get a response from the EDD.
In the meantime, there are some other updates to share.
The EDD website has said that people applying for Pandemic Unemployment would only get $167 per week in state unemployment, plus the extra $600 in federal stimulus unemployment. The agency has now confirmed that once they’re done programming their computers, people collecting PUA will be eligible for the full $450 in state unemployment.
The PUA web page was updated today to clarify that EDD “will be able to increase the benefit amount to a maximum of $450 per week if you earned more than $17,368 in 2019.”
The EDD has also changed its policy on certifying every two weeks. In an apparent effort to reduce web traffic, the EDD’s website now says that claimants no longer have to certify that they are still unemployed every two weeks.
As long as you remain unemployed, the EDD says it will automatically continue to make payments without certification until the week of May 9.
Follow our continuing coverage as CBS13 works to get answers to your Coronavirus Unemployment Questions: