Calif. Extends Unemployment Benefits to Self-Employed, Freelancers, Gig Workers

Also announced Tuesday: new options for CalFresh 'food stamp' recipients to order groceries for delivery

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California's employment agency on Tuesday announced an expansion of unemployment benefits to workers who didn't hold traditional part-time or full-time jobs before the pandemic.

The Employment Development Department (EDD) says it is now accepting applications for unemployment insurance, or UI, from self-employed people who have been unable to work during shelter-in-place orders.

In a news release, EDD director Sharon Hilliard said her agency is working quickly to provide aid to independent contractors, small business owners, sole proprietors, and others in similar circumstances.

"We know there are a lot of workers in the state who are in business for themselves and have been greatly struggling through this historic pandemic," Hilliard said. "We have worked to get this new program in place quickly to support working Californians, the self-employed, their families, and their communities."

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program differs from the unemployment benefit offered to workers laid off or furloughed by an employer. It offers a lifeline to jobless people who otherwise do not qualify for EDD unemployment insurance.

EDD says PUA applicants will receive $167 per week at first, and possibly more later, as the program develops. They may also be entitled to a $600 payment from the federal government. Benefits can be applied retroactively to whenever the applicant was first unable to work, as far back as February 2. Full benefits will be paid out over time.

The agency launched a Frequently Asked Questions page to help job-seekers determine if they qualify for PUA, traditional UI, or another benefit.

Amazon Now Accepting CalFresh for Grocery Delivery

Also on Tuesday, Amazon said it is now accepting CalFresh payment for delivery of certain approved grocery items.

Previously, users of CalFresh -- formerly known as "food stamps", and part of the federal SNAP / EBT programs -- needed to go to a store in person to use their payment cards. That posed a problem for seniors and others with health issues who may be at high risk of complications if they're exposed to coronavirus.

Amazon has a special website at amazon.com/snap to help Californians sign up and order delivery.

Families in need of help with groceries can apply for assistance at GetCalFresh.org. The process takes about ten minutes.

Walmart said it is also now participating. 

“That applies to all 145 Walmart stores where pickup and/or delivery is available in California,” a spokesperson said in a statement. 

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