More than 1,000 entertainment union members logged in to a Zoom meeting hosted by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor to learn more about the various programs available to them through the Employment Development Department and the federal CARES Act legislation.
The special webinar was co-hosted by Hollywood labor unions, including the I.A.T.S.E., DGA and SAG-AFTRA.
After welcomes from LA Fed President Ron Herrera and IATSE Vice Presidents Thom Davis and Mike Miller, the presentation was handed over to Ken Gomez and Brandy DeArte of the state’s EDD.
The presentation included what the EDD is doing to handle the historic volume of claims in the state; how the CARES Act works with Unemployment Insurance (UI); the special provisions provided due to COVID-19; the basics of UI and the claim process and other information and tools available.
What the EDD is Doing to Handle the High Volume of Claims
Gomez reviewed some of the steps the EDD has taken to handle the large numbers of people filing for UI in the state, this includes expanding hours for staff to file claims and make benefit payments; reassigning managers and support staff to other areas in need; borrowing staff from other EDD branches and other state government agencies to assist in the workload; hiring new staff; upgrading the UI system and streamlining the claims process. A new call system will be open in mid-to-late April as well.
The CARES Act and UI
The federal legislation passed in March provided additional benefits to those filing for UI.
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – which is referred to by the EDD as Pandemic Additional Compensation (PAC) – provides a $600/week stimulus payment in addition to the state’s weekly benefit amount for a recipient. This is additional money and not part of the balance for a claim.
The additional $600 is automatically added to UI benefits from March 29 through the end of July.
The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (PEUC) extends UI up to 13 additional weeks.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is a program created for those who don’t usually qualify for UI benefits, such as business owners, the self-employed and independent contractors. Claimants with regular UI claims but who have exhausted those benefits are also eligible for this program, as well as individuals with limited work history.
There is no PUA extension but it provides for 39 weeks of benefits, going back to those affected on Feb. 2 through Dec. 31, 2020. The benefits are triggered back to the date when one’s employment was first impacted.
This benefit will start accepting applications on April 28 and once the application is accepted it should take just one-to-two days to process. More information can be found at https://edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm
Certifying UI Benefits
The fastest way to certify for UI benefits is through the UI mobile app or TeleCert. Some claims may require additional interviews and it’s advised that those with scheduled interviews adhere to the date and time they will receive their call from EDD.
The EDD is planning to have a dedicated webpage on its site for those working in the entertainment industry. It will be similar to the current EDD site but will provide details of all the programs, FAQs specific to the industry and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What day should I list as my last day of work?
A: The very last day you worked and your very last employer. The EDD is just looking for the last physical work for the claimant on the last physical work day.
Q: Which box should I check? Regular UI or Disaster Relief UI?
A: Check the Regular UI box. Disaster relief is for other types of disaster aid, not associated with Covid-19
Q: What is the best separation reason if I’m laid off because of Covid-19?
A: There are a couple of options that come up, including Contract Ended and Laid Off. EDD recommends you use Laid Off – whether it’s because work ended or due to Covid-19. Their reasoning: When you fulfill a contract, you are laid off.
Q: My benefits say zero when I filed regular UI. What should I do?
A: EDD indicated not to worry. Once all the programming is in place, they will reach out to you, send letters and set up interviews with everyone who meets the requirements. They make many efforts to get you in the correct program.
Q: I worked in California and in another state. How do I file?
A: EDD indicated that you should contact them to discuss further. They can see your information from the other states and determine how to file. They apologize for the long waits to speak with someone. But you have to talk with them so they can help you.
Q: All my wages came from another state but I live in California. Do I file here?
A: Yes. File in California to get the claim going. They will contact you if more information is needed. It’s not the responsibility of the claimant to know which benefits they qualify for or how to handle incomes from other states. That’s the job on the EDD.
Q: I had an open claim pre-pandemic and now I’m laid off. What should I do?
A: It depends on your regular claim and if it still has benefits available. Most likely you will go into the extension period and you will get the additional $600/week in benefits. A regular claim is 26 weeks and the extension is 13 weeks. The PUA benefit is a straight 39 weeks.
Q: Is there a difference in how you apply or how you report your income if you’re incorporated as a loan out?
A: EDD recommends you just apply for regular UI.
Q: Entertainment industry workers have to list all employers for the last 18 months. If I forgot one what do I do?
A: The EDD will send a list of who they have as your employer and you can correct that list by mailing it back. It might not change your claim if you’re at the maximum benefit already.
Q: If I haven’t received my last check due to the shutdown and don’t know how much I made, how do I answer last pay questions?
A: When you receive your check, log into your online account and report the pay to EDD.
Q: How do you calculate the weekly hours and hourly rate if you receive flat fee service payments?
A: EDD says you have to do your best. Take your best “guestimate.” 10 days = 2 weeks. 7 days = 5 days of work.
In addition to the EDD webinar, the non-profit organization Public Counsel has received funding from Legendary Entertainment to provide various educational webinars and assistance to those working in the entertainment industry and are out of work or in need.
The first webinar is available for viewing on You Tube here and provides much of the same information provided in this EDD webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCxxdHsxJ8Y