KTVU reports California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday said he has extended the unemployment call center hours to help the record 2.7 million Californians who have filed claims and created a fund to help undocumented immigrants, who comprise 10% of the state’s workforce.
The Employment Development Department’s call center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, rather than closing at noon Monday through Friday. Newsom extended the hours through an executive order.
Undocumented immigrants will be eligible to tap into a $125 million relief fund as they navigate through the economic upheaval unleashed by coronavirus outbreak, Newsom announced. The $2 trillion federal stimulus package did not include aid to undocumented workers.
To staff the expanded EDD hotline, Newsom said he has redeployed 600 employees for a total of 1,340 at the EDD, who will now answer phone calls and help Californians receive their unemployment checks. He took a moment to say a special thanks to all those employees who worked on Easter Sunday.
Julie Su, Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, acknowledged that there has been a lot of frustration so far with people trying to get their unemployment insurance benefits.
She said the new hours and added employees will make speaking to a “live person” much easier.
The news couldn’t come sooner for Skip Twitchell, a San Rafael labor manager for live events and concerts.
He said that after he was furloughed on March 21, he successfully applied for unemployment online, but he could not get any help with his application over the phone.
“If you need to need to call in for any advice, good luck, because I’m sure they’re utterly swamped,” he said. “Any time I tried to make a phone call there was absolutely no way to get through.”
Undocumented workers account for 10% of California’s labor force, providing essential work to the state, Newsom said.
Because they are not eligible for stimulus money under the federal plan, Newsom said he created a $125 million Disaster Relief Fund to soften the blow from coronavirus-induced shutdown.
Immigrants can receive up to $1,000 per family and $500 per individual, Newsom said.
The state is contributing $75 million to the fund while the rest comes from corporations and philanthropists.
The money will be helpful to people like Marcos Saul Aurora Gonzalez and his girlfriend, who live in San Francisco and are undocumented. Both haven’t worked for the last three weeks. He’s a day laborer. She cleans houses.
Gonzalez said unless he got help, his money will run out by the end of the week, which would be catastrophic. In the last few days, Gonzalez has been able to find work cleaning hotel rooms and has been the beneficiary of some individual Bay Area nonprofits and residents who have wanted to help him.
“This is a good start,” Newsom said. “But we have more to do.”