Californians struggling to find work will receive an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits from a federal stimulus package starting Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, as a deluge of 2.3 million new claims in the last month has the state struggling to get payments to those who have just lost their jobs.
The additional relief money approved by Congress means California’s average weekly benefit of $340 will be boosted to $940, while those who get the maximum weekly state benefit will see checks increased to $1,050. The higher benefits will last for four months.
The first payment is going out Sunday to those with already processed claims and is for the week ending April 11. The payments will be credited to state Employment Development Department debit cards.
“Many Californians are feeling the effects of this pandemic, and this added benefit is very important to our workers so they have needed resources during this difficult time,” Newsom said in a statement Thursday.
Newsom said the 2.3 million new unemployment claims processed in the last four weeks are more than all the claims filed in 2019. The state paid nearly $684.3 million in unemployment benefits in the last month. For the week ending April 4, the Employment Development Department processed 925,450 claims, which is a 2,418% increase over the same week last year.
“That’s tremendously significant,” state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), who chairs the Senate labor committee, said of the larger payments. “That will make the difference for people — whether they can make it or not in this state.”
But the state is seeing a storm of complaints from newly unemployed workers who have been unable to get through to the Employment Development Department by phone for help in filing applications. In response, state lawmakers called Thursday for the agency to immediately expand call center hours beyond the 8 a.m.-to-noon daily window currently provided.