New State Initiatives to Support California Workers include a $125 Million Fund for Undocumented Californians

Governor Newsom announced several new initiatives yesterday to support California workers who have lost jobs or wages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a $125 million disaster relief fund for undocumented residents.

California Disaster Relief Fund

The State is creating an unprecedented $125 million Disaster Relief Fund to provide assistance for undocumented immigrants who live in California and are ineligible for unemployment insurance and COVID-19-related disaster relief, including the CARES Act, due to their immigration status.

Across California and the United States, undocumented workers disproportionately fill many essential jobs and are subjected to a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19 while at work. Undocumented workers and their families are particularly vulnerable because they cannot access unemployment insurance and COVID-19-related disaster relief. Because they lack work authorization, undocumented workers who have been laid off by their employer due to COVID-19 are ineligible for unemployment insurance, even though they have paid taxes and their employers have paid into the state’s unemployment insurance system. These workers are also unlikely to receive stimulus payments despite being taxpayers and filing tax returns.

California’s Disaster Relief Fund, the first statewide public-private partnership, will provide financial support to undocumented immigrants impacted by COVID-19. California will provide $75 million in disaster relief assistance and philanthropic partners have committed to raising an additional $50 million. According to the Governor’s Office, approximately 150,000 undocumented adult Californians will receive a one-time cash benefit of $500 per adult with a cap of $1,000 per household to deal with needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s Disaster Relief Fund will be distributed through regional nonprofits with experience serving undocumented communities.

Immigrant workers and families can begin applying for support beginning next month.

Accelerating Delivery of Emergency Benefits

The Governor also announced that, starting April 28th, the Employment Development Department (EDD) will operate as a one-stop shop for workers applying for unemployment insurance and the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The PUA provides federal unemployment benefits separate from California unemployment benefits to workers who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19. Workers covered under the PUA include the self-employed (e.g. independent contractors, gig economy workers, etc.), workers who may be employees but who lack sufficient work history, and those who do not otherwise qualify for regular unemployment or extended benefits.

According to the Governor’s Office, PUA benefits will be issued within 24-48 hours and not the traditional 21 days for regular unemployment insurance claims.

At the Governor’s direction, the EDD will also launch a new call center on April 20th that will operate every day from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and will expedite access to the Work Share program to avert layoffs. Staff will also be increased to 1,340 employees, including 740 EDD employees and 600 employees from across the state.

The Governor’s announcement can be found here and his executive order can be found here.

By: Alejandro Delgado | April 16, 2020

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