LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Hundreds of thousands of people in California stand to lose unemployment benefits at the end of next month unless lawmakers take action.
Dianne Christmann was a Lyft driver before the pandemic hit. As a gig worker- she qualified for unemployment under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program or PUS.
That program is set to expire on Dec. 26, leaving her with only one option — to start driving again — but Christmann has a pre-existing condition.
“I am not sure I am willing to risk my life, as this is spiking, to get back in my car,” she said.
The PUA is a federal CARES act provision that helps those typically ineligible for unemployment. Experts say Los Angeles has some of the highest concentrations of gig workers in the state.
“I think it’s just going to be devastating to this city,” Christmann said.
A new analysis by UCLA’s California Policy Lab has found that 750,000 Californians will stop receiving benefits on December 26th. The majority — more than half a million — are gig workers, under PUA.
CPL estimates that the loss of benefits at the end of December will result in a reduction of 173 million federal dollars each week into California’s economy.
“So we are now cutting off benefits to a large group of workers and that is likely to reduce overall spending and will risk depressing the economic recovery,” said UCLA Professor of Economics Dr. Till Von Wachter.
David Fleming stands to lose his benefits in a few weeks. He says he is also still owed back pay from EDD.
“We’re ready to lose our house,” said Fleming. “We have two kids. We’re really struggling. We’ve got some friends, and we are borrowing money.”
Erica Chan runs a Facebook group for more than 50,000 unemployed workers in California and she says there are still workers struggling to get benefits from as far back as March.
“I feel like a lot of people who have given up on seeing their benefits because it’s just so difficult,” said Chan.
Chan’s website, faqcaui.com, helps those confused about their unemployment benefits.
CPL researchers also found that another 400,000 Californians will have their benefits expire in April and May of 2021. Those are the people that applied for unemployment right when the pandemic hit in March.
EDD said in a statement:
“These are certainly difficult times, and we at EDD are doing everything we can to assist those who are going through financial challenges as a result of the ongoing pandemic. The EDD recommends individuals review our Unemployment Benefit Programs flowchart, which explains the different benefit programs and extensions that are available. In some instances, individuals may be found eligible for an alternate benefit program after the expiration of another. The EDD will be sure to provide further information if and when any additional benefits or stimulus payments are made available by the federal government.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is one of the federal CARES Act provisions that helps unemployed Californians who are not usually eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. This includes business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with a limited work history who are out of business or have significantly reduced their services as a direct result of the pandemic.
This program includes up to 46 weeks of benefits from February 2, 2020, through December 26, 2020, depending on when you were directly affected by COVID-19. Unless the federal government extends the program, EDD will be unable to provide PUA benefits for any weeks after Dec. 26, 2020. Any unemployment benefits through Dec 26 will still be eligible PUA payments, even if you are paid later.
But for those who run out of all unemployment benefits they are eligible for, the EDD encourages individuals to visit our additional resources webpage for a detailed listing of other services and programs in California that may be able to provide further assistance.”