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Local independent contractors report issues with new application for unemployment benefits

Posted at 5:05 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 20:05:45-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - On Tuesday, local gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed individuals who were put out of work during the pandemic were finally able to apply for unemployment benefits from the California Employment Development Department’s (EDD) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

However, 10News discovered that some applicants dealt with confusing instructions and a website that reportedly kept crashing.

“I haven't gotten any money at all from the government,” said Guy Hamel. He’s a San Diego hair stylist whose been out of work for six weeks because of the COVID-19 crisis. “Now rent's coming up in a couple of days and not knowing if we're going to get paid is stressful,” he added.

10News first introduced viewers to Hamel almost three weeks ago when he told 10News that he had filed an unemployment claim but wasn’t issued any benefits. At the time, the EDD was still sorting out how to issue payments through the PUA fund for workers like Hamel.

Now, applications are finally being accepted. Hamel filled his application out at 5:30 a.m. He’s part of a network of thousands of local stylists who are also applying. Many of them have been complaining about conflicting information regarding the application launch time. Others reported experiencing problems with the EDD’s website. On social media, one user wrote, “It keeps crashing on me. I can't get it to work.” “I would say there were about three or four questions on there that were really super confusing,” added Hamel.

According to the EDD, if you've been unemployed since February 2nd through March 28th, you will get $167 per week. If you've been unemployed since March 29th, you'll get $167 per week plus $600 per week from federal funds but that benefit is only available until the last week of July.

The EDD did not address 10News’ questions about the reported problems with the website. A spokesperson sent 10News the following statement:

“The EDD did launch the new programming in our UI Online system this morning for accepting applications for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Claimants are applying. We also launched a new consolidated page for helping direct claimants through the process of applying for regular UI or PUA benefits called the Unemployment Benefits Guide [unemployment.edd.ca.gov]. In addition, we have updated PUA FAQs [edd.ca.gov] available to assist impacted workers in understanding program eligibility and how payments will be made.”