Rep. Adam Schiff Urges Rollout of Pandemic Assistance Application for Gig Workers

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The $600 payments that Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday do not apply to self-employed, gig and contract workers until they fill out the application.

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff is following up on his earlier efforts to ensure that the entertainment industry's self-employed and gig workers receive federal pandemic aid.

On Friday, the Democrat penned a letter to California Labor Secretary Julie A. Su asking for the Employment Development Department to "prioritize making the application for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program publicly available as soon as possible." 

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA), which was passed as part of the government's Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, will provide up to 39 weeks of benefits and a $600 additional payment weekly for business owners, self-employed workers or independent contractors whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic. Currently, the PUA page on California's EDD website does not have an application form available: "Because this is a brand new program, each state will need time to develop all of the necessary system programming, forms, processes, and procedures. This page will be updated as information becomes available," the website explains.

On Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that, starting Sunday, workers in the state who qualify for regular state benefits will receive $600 CARES Act Pandemic Additional Compensation — which does not extend to self-employed, gig and contract workers, who will receive these payments via PUA.

In his letter, Schiff underscores the importance of making the application available as soon as possible: "I represent thousands of independent, freelance, contract, and gig workers — including many in the entertainment industry — who often do not fully qualify for standard unemployment benefits," he says. " I am hearing from many of my newly eligible constituents who are concerned because they are not yet able to apply and who are increasingly worried as their financial responsibilities continue to mount without anticipated income."

Schiff additionally requests that EDD update its webpage daily and allow PUA-eligible workers to create accounts on the EDD website and opt in for notifications for when the application is available.

"This is an unprecedented crisis, and I am grateful for your hard work to ensure every affected worker will have timely access to vital benefits," he adds. if there is any way I can be of assistance.

Schiff originally led the charge on asking for lawmakers to consider freelance and contract workers in the entertainment industry while putting together the CARES Act. He, other members of Congress and entertainment production hubs nationwide sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on March 19.