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Newsom extends help to unemployed, gig workers, illegal immigrants

Gov. Gavin Newsom

With 2.7 million Californians filing for unemployment benefits in the last month, the Employment Development Department will extend its hours to meet the growing demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.

The state plans on launching a new call center Monday to help expedite benefits to those who have filed, by operating seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Unemployment Insurance branch will increase its staff with 1,340 employees, including 740 EDD workers and an additional 600 state employees. 

“Many Californians are one paycheck away from losing their homes or from being able to put food on their tables, and COVID-19 has only made these challenges worse,” said Newsom. “California is focused on getting relief dollars and unemployment assistance in the hands of those who need it as quickly as possible.”

Newsom also highlighted the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, scheduled to take effect starting April 28, which is expected to provide benefits for up to 39 weeks for those who lost their jobs or are partially unemployed due to the pandemic. The program covers self-employed workers, independent contractors and individuals who lack sufficient work history to qualify for unemployment. 

When individuals apply, payments are expected to go out within 24 to 48 hours, Labor Secretary Julie Su said, adding that payments are retroactive to Feb. 2 for those who have waited for payments for several weeks. 

The governor also announced $125 million for undocumented immigrants impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Of that, $75 million will come from state disaster relief assistance fund and $50 million from “philanthropic partners,” according to Newsom’s office.  

An estimated 150,000 illegal immigrants are expected to receive a one-time cash benefit of $500 per adult with a cap of $1,000 per household. Individuals can apply to start next month. 

The announcement comes as Newsom reported 63 new COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the total statewide death toll to 821 and 24,424 total confirmed cases. 

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