SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It’s been nearly eight weeks since the president signed the CARES Act, giving people an extra 13 weeks of unemployment benefits, but Californians still can’t even apply for that money.
CBS13 Investigative Reporter Julie Watts has been working for weeks to get answers from the Employment Development Department.
Like many EDD endeavors, a recent EDD Facebook live began with technical difficulties, but Jason Bourgault says he stuck with the web stream with Labor Secretary Julie Su, in hopes of getting the promised unemployment answers he’d been waiting weeks for.
Instead, Su said only that EDD was still working on the 13 week extension, adding, “and we will have more information about that as soon as I have it.”
That was two weeks ago.
“I see no information, new information from EDD about when or where it’s gonna happen,” Bourgault said.
Many, like Bourgault, who collected unemployment last year and exhausted their benefits, still can’t even apply for the 13-week extension authorized by the CARES act. The extension is known as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
“I’ve got money in there that I’ve paid in from the last year of working,” he said. “But because of the EDD rules, you have to go through a whole calendar year.”
Bourgault works in the film industry, but this impacts many freelancers, seasonal workers, and people like Mary Parsi, who’s in her 60s and lost her job last summer. At her age, she was struggling to get re-hired when the pandemic broke out.
Both she and Bourgault say they have exhausted their savings and Mary desperately needs the UI extension to survive.
“Right now I’m in a state of panic,” Parsi said.
CBS13 first asked the EDD about the benefit extensions back on April 15, and again on the 16, when the EDD told us “it was developing instructions.” We asked again on April 28, and on April 30, the day of the Facebook Live.
On Tuesday, the EDD told CBS13 there are “a lot of complexities to programming this new extension.” The EDD has 30-year-old computers that use a 60-year-old computer language.
But Bourgault notes, this final group of people, who are still waiting for EDD to roll out their benefits, are already in the EDD system and have their EDD debit cards, unlike the first-time claimants who applied weeks ago.
Bourgault says he exhausted his savings waiting for EDD, and he has heard horror stories from many fellow freelancers who simply can’t afford to wait.
“People are scared that they’re gonna be thrown out into the street,” he said.
Meanwhile, Parsi, who was diagnosed with heart problems, doesn’t know if she’ll survive the wait.
“The stress of not having an answer, it has an extreme effect on my health right now,” she said.
EDD said it is hoping to make an announcement on Thursday regarding the 13-week extension and when self-employed Californians can expect to start receiving their full $450 a week in state benefits, instead of the $167 they are currently getting.
Details and money can’t come soon enough for millions, now more than two months into the pandemic.
UPDATE May 14:
Following this report, EDD announced the following timeline for the 13-week PEUC extensions:
New federal extension planned for launch
The EDD has been working around the clock to implement a new 13-week federal extension of unemployment benefits called the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) established in the federal CARES Act. Due to the different dates, eligibility requirements, and interactions with other UI programs, including the new PUA program, the implementation of this extension has increased complexities. In order to make these PEUC benefits available as quickly as possible during this historic pandemic, the EDD will be rolling the extension out in two phases.
· Phase 1 – Starting May 27th, the EDD will begin automatically filing PEUC extensions for those who exhausted all available benefits on their claim with a benefit year that started on or after June 2, 2019, and expects the first phase to be completed in early June. These individuals will receive a notice through the mail about 5-7 days after the PEUC extension is filed. This notice will include instructions on how to certify for extension benefit payments if you remain unemployed. Claimants are also encouraged to watch for updates in the Inbox of their UI Online account.
· Phase 2 – Starting in early July, the EDD will begin mailing notices to those who ran out of their regular UI benefits sometime after July 2018 who are not part of the more recent group of those who exhausted benefits in Phase 1. More details will be released later. But the EDD recommends these individuals who remain out of work apply for another UI claim through UI Online if they haven’t already done so. The EDD will be required to first check whether or not they would qualify for a new regular claim before an extension could be filed.