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Gov. Newsom announces more benefits for unemployed Californians amid coronavirus pandemic

People wear their face masks waiting in line for an emergency food distribution at the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ on April 14, 2020 in Los Angeles, California, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced additional unemployment benefits for the state on Wednesday as well as new measures to handle a record volume of unemployment inquiries.

“People are not where they were just a few weeks ago,” Newsom said at a press briefing Wednesday. “Just in the last four weeks, 2.7 million Californians have formally filed for unemployment insurance.”

Newsom said California is now setting up the federal government’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which will provide benefits for certain unemployed individuals, including those who are self-employed, gig workers and independent contractors. There are 1.5 million self-employed California residents “also deserving of direct assistance,” according to Newsom. 

The state’s Employment Development Department will serve as a one-stop shop for both unemployment insurance and PUA benefits starting April 28. Newsom said the plan is to issue PUA benefits within 24 hours to 48 hours, rather than 21 days as is the case for unemployment insurance claims.

California is processing one million unemployment payments each week, according to Newsom. 

“We are in the process now of dealing with an unprecedented number of people making phone calls into our EDD,” he said. 

Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday extending the hours of unemployment call centers, which will now be open 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven days a week. The state has also redirected 1,340 state employees to help handle the increase in call inquiries.

California is also setting aside aid to help undocumented immigrants who are ineligible for unemployment insurance and disaster relief from the CARES Act, according to Newsom. The state’s $75 million Disaster Relief Fund will provide one-time cash benefits to undocumented immigrants, and Newsom said California is raising an additional $50 million through a public-private partnership. 

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