Click play above to hear Jennifer Shaw’s full interview with Randol White on CapRadio’s Insight.
As the United States enters its third coronavirus wave, more than 2 million Californians were unemployed as of September, a rate of 10.8%.
While the state's Employment Development Department finally reduced its backlog of claims to under 1 million in November, more people continue to file. As of earlier November, weekly claims were still as high as 152,400.
Since applying for unemployment can be confusing and difficult to navigate, especially during a pandemic, Shaw Law Group President and expert in employment law Jennifer Shaw broke down those steps on CapRadio's Insight and gave an update on how to file for unemployment during the pandemic.
On how EDD is addressing the current backlog
A task force looked at the EDD’s processes and procedures, made some recommendations, [and] the EDD is totally on board about making those changes. What I’m hearing anecdotally is that things are being processed more quickly.
People’s questions are being answered more quickly, and they’re getting fewer multiple [instances] of correspondence. That’s something that was really confusing people … they would get an email, then they would get two letters about something they already did, and that was generating more questions to the agency.
So I’ve heard they’re doing a little bit better. Now the truth is there are an awful lot of people in this system right now here in California, so it’s never going to be smooth sailing until we get out of this pandemic, but I do think things have improved.
On how to apply for unemployment if you lost your job due to the pandemic
A lot of folks were paid to be furloughed at the beginning of this pandemic. A lot of our clients, a lot of employers, were saying, "Look, this is going to be short term. Let's just take care of these folks for a few months. We'll be able to get them back on board."
With what's happening now, unfortunately, we have many more clients who are actually proceeding to a separation of employment. So they're not doing the "furlough" or "temporary layoff," they're actually moving to "you're separated."
First thing to try to do is not panic … There are a lot of resources out there, and if you get yourself in a spin, you're going to miss them. So the first thing to realize is that the EDD system is better dealt with online. So if you don't have a computer, no problem. The libraries are letting folks in for limited periods of time.
You go on the EDD's website, and what you want to have in front of your is your last year's W-2 [or 1099 form] because they're going to ask you what your wages were last year … You sit down, you answer the questions to the best of your ability.
Now the second tip is don't get spun out by some of the questions because some of them are frankly nonsensical, and they seem internally inconsistent. All you can do is your best.
If it's true, the more you can relate your job loss to the pandemic, the quicker your claim is going to be processed … If you would have this job if we didn't have COVID-19, your termination is related to the pandemic or your layoff.
You don't need a letter from your employer that says you're being laid off because of it, just use your common sense. And if you can answer that question truthfully, answer that question in the affirmative.
[The application] may take a little longer than you're hoping, but if you just get through it, nobody's waiting to arrest you for making the wrong call on one of those questions … Nobody's looking to get you in trouble, right? The folks at the EDD are really empathetic.
On the progress of another coronavirus relief bill
The state legislature is working on that right now. I think it's much more likely that the California legislature will get that done before Congress does, at this point. There's obviously a lot going on on the federal level, so we're going to get more done locally.
What I tell people is, listen, you can't change what's going to happen. Let the government do their work. Try not to worry about it. Again, I know that's hard, but you can't affect it anyway.
It's important for folks to know the government is trying to solve the problem. I know people have political differences, but understand they all have constituents that this whole business of people being out of work is happening across the state. So, every one of those folks in the Capitol has an incentive to try to figure this out, and I know personally they are working on it.
On the future of unemployment during the winter
I do think unemployment claims, unfortunately, are going to continue increasing. We’re not getting out of this as quickly as we hoped … The new administration appears to be really getting on top of [organizing mass vaccination].
And some people say, “What does the vaccine have to do with the workplace?” Everything, because once you can make it a safe place for people to come to work, customers will come back in, vendors will continue buying, the economy will be able to turn around.
Is the vaccine a panacea? No. If you listen to Dr. Facui, it’s not, but it’s a start. So as long as we continue doing the social distancing measure and the other public health measures that we’ve taken, we’re going to get out of this.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.