unemployment

Workers Affected by Coronavirus Can Apply for Certain Assistance Regardless of Immigration Status

If you are unable to work because you were sick or exposed to the novel coronavirus, you may also qualify for disability insurance.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the novel coronavirus pandemic is already causing record unemployment, but all affected workers can apply for some form of assistance, including undocumented immigrants. 

Prior to the pandemic, Newsom said, the state received nearly 2,000 unemployment claims a day. That number is now close to 80,000, and the governor estimates that nearly 300,000 payroll jobs could be cut. 

A third of these jobs are in the transportation and hospitality industries. 

"My family is not working. My husband has been laid off, and my daughter, the restaurant [where she works] is closed,” Bertaly Meléndez said. She's seen loved ones affected by unemployment.

Fredy Meléndez worked in the hotel industry and is also one of those affected. 

"Yes, we have been laid off because of the virus. We’re waiting to see when they call us back,” he said. 

Like thousands more, Fredy Meléndez has already applied for unemployment insurance. 

"I've already filled out the application and right now I am waiting for the answer," he said.

Employees impacted by the coronavirus pandemic can apply for unemployment insurance if they were laid off, quarantined, or had their hours cut. But to qualify, they must have received social security income in the last 12 to 18 months to be able to collect benefits from the first week, "or for people who need to stay home to care for their children for the recent closure of schools," Martha Garcia said, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Education.

Impacted employees must also prove that they were and currently are in satisfactory immigration status, and that they were authorized to work in the United States when earning the wages used to establish a claim. A person must also be authorized to work each week that they claim benefits.

According to the California Department of Employment Development (EDD), eligible workers can receive benefits of between $40 to $450 weekly for up to 26 weeks.

But if you are unable to work because you were sick or exposed to the novel coronavirus, you may also qualify for disability insurance.

"The legal and citizen immigration status requirements do not affect the eligibility to receive [disability insurance] benefits," Garcia said. 

That disability insurance provides short-term assistance. Most Californians are covered if they file a disability claim and medical documentation that they became ill with coronavirus or have symptoms, and again, citizenship and immigration status do not affect eligibility.

The claim must present evidence of the onset of the medical condition and of the possible duration, as well as doctor, hospital, or health agent information.

Disability benefits cover 60 to 70% of a salary and translate to an income of $50 to $1,300 per week for up to 52 weeks.

Unemployment claims are only being accepted online or by mail, as assistance centers have closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. You can submit your claim on the website www.edd.ca.gov and click on the claims section.

The California Department of Unemployment Development asks the public for patience, as phone lines are long and the internet connection may be slow. However, they ensure that there are no delays in receiving benefits. For more information, please visit the EDD's COVID-19 resources page.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated since its original posting. It now clarifies that Unemployment Insurance benefits do require a person to have legal permission to work in the United States in order to file a claim. Immigration status does not affect eligibility for Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave benefits.

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