LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The federal stimulus package is supposed to cover additional unemployment benefits for freelance and part-time workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but a growing number of those workers say they’ve been unable to access that money.
Kyle Gilbertson is one of those freelance workers. He works as an editor, but as Hollywood has gone dark, all of his work has dried up.
“It seems to me like everyone has gone radio silent,” he said.
Out of work for the unforeseeable future, Gilbertson was happy to learn that he and the other 2 million self-employed workers in California would be eligible for expanded unemployment benefits under the federal stimulus package.
He went on unemployment last year between jobs, which previously would have prevented him from claiming benefits, but the new bill is supposed to provide freelance workers an additional 13 weeks.
“I went to my unemployment home page, and it just wouldn’t let me do anything,” Gilbertson said. “It just kept saying, ‘Your year is exhausted.'”
And Gilbertson is far from alone.
Cathy Powell, a freelance event planner, was also unable to apply because she used the benefit last year.
“I had six months of work lined up for me,” she said. “And now everything, in light of everything that’s going on, has ended.”
That lack of work means Powell, like many, has zero income coming in.
“I gotta pay my rent, I gotta pay my internet, I gotta pay for food,” she said. “And I don’t know how to do that.”
And both Gilbertson and Powell said reaching the state’s unemployment office has been next to impossible.
“Instead of having a call back option or being on hold for 2-3 hours, they just end the call,” Gilbertson said. “It just says, ‘Thanks for calling, we’re busy right now.'”
At Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Thursday briefing, California Labor Secretary Julie Su said the state is aware of the problems and that they were working with the federal government on the issue to make sure they can get money to workers as soon as it becomes available.