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Self-employed workers getting closer to unemployment benefits

Posted at 5:02 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 21:04:42-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- There is finally movement on getting much needed unemployment payments to San Diego's self-employed and gig workers, who are generally ineligible for the benefit.

This week, California Labor Secretary Julie Su said the state needed two weeks to install and test a system that would allow workers such as hair stylists and Uber and Lyft drivers to apply for unemployment insurance.

The workers don't pay into the state's unemployment insurance system so don't qualify. However, the Federal CARES act in response to the Coronavirus outbreak extends the benefits to these workers.

But California's Employment Development Department, which administers the payments, did not have a system in place to pay independent contractors. Su, in a letter dated April 14, said the system should be up in two weeks and then payments would be administered within 24 to 48 hours.

"As we get through this pandemic together, please know that my team and I are working every single day on behalf of Californians," Su said in a letter to Californians dated April 14. "It doesn't feel like enough, given the enormity of the challenges and the deep pain that people are feeling, but we are giving it everything we have."

In San Diego, workers expressed skepticism of the state meeting that timeline.

Guy Hamel, a hair stylist in Bankers Hill, said any assistance would be greatly appreciated, but noted that the delays are costly. He says he hasn't earned a penny in a month, and that savings are waning.

"The first two weeks were okay. Three weeks is fine. And then as it starts getting to a month and a half, two months, then it starts getting a little questionable," said Hamel. "I wish we wouldn't have to wait another two weeks to fill out another form."

Su's letter says the payments will be retroactive to as far back as January 27, which predates the CARES Act and Coronavirus restrictions.