What To Do If You Are Laid Off

Following Monday’s COVID-19 mandate that all bars must shut down and all restaurants must close dining rooms, workers across California are suddenly finding themselves unemployed — or dangerously near it.

Servers and bartenders have been on the minds of many since Monday’s announcement, as tipped workers will suffer tremendously from the closure of dining rooms. But they’re only the latest group of workers affected by COVID-19’s rapid spread. Staffers at music venues, hotels, the convention center, trade shows, and more are finding themselves without work.

This has left countless individuals wondering — what are my options? Here’s a quick resource guide for those affected.

I just got laid off. What government assistance do I qualify for?

Legislators are working on different relief programs for workers, but none have been approved yet. Unemployment benefits through the State of California are your best bet right now. You’re eligible if you lost work due to no fault of your own. You also need to be available for work, actively looking for work and ready to accept work immediately. Check out the state’s resource guide to learn all eligibility requirements, and apply.

I haven’t lost my job yet, but my hours have been cut. Can I still get unemployment?

Partial wage replacement is available to people who are technically still employed but aren’t getting the hours they’re used to. Workers can apply for these partial wages through the State of California’s Employment Development Department. As a bonus, workers who plan on returning to their current employers within a few weeks don’t have to actively seek new work to qualify for benefits.

How soon will I get the money?

The state says relief money can be expected within “a few weeks” of your application, as long as everything is filled out correctly and you meet eligibility requirements. However, the state will soon be dealing with a flood of applications. It’s unclear whether this will slow the process down, but EDD staffers say they’re doing everything possible to prevent that.

How much money can I get?

It will depend on your previous wages and can range from $40 to $450 per week. Grab your most recent paycheck stubs and head over to the EDD’s unemployment calculator. This can give you a close idea of what your unemployment insurance payments will be.

I heard that unemployment insurance won’t cover your first week out of work. Does that apply during the COVID-19 crisis?

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order on March 12 waives the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can collect unemployment benefits for the first week you are out of work. Unfortunately, the money doesn’t come in any faster. But at least you’ll be getting paid for all the time you’re out of work.

I can’t wait for unemployment money to come in. What other options do I have?

Some organizations are pulling together donations to help workers affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns. Eater has pulled together a list of relief funds, which you can read here.