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California Employees Sidelined by Coronavirus May Get These Benefits
Slobodyany Insurance Agency
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, by Kathleen Pender
California employees who lose work because of the coronavirus may be eligible for a range of benefits including paid sick leave, paid family leave, unemployment insurance and state disability insurance.
To inform employees and employers of their rights and responsibilities, the California Department of Industrial Relations and Employment Development Department have issued FAQs related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, for programs they administer. For an overview, see labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/.
Here are some benefits that employees sidelined by the coronavirus might get.
Disability insurance: If a medical professional has certified that you can’t work because you have or have been exposed to COVID-19, you can file a claim for state disability insurance. It provides short-term payments to eligible workers who lose some or all wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy for up to 52 weeks.
Paid family leave: If you can’t work because you are caring for a relative who is sick or quarantined by COVID-19, you can file for paid family leave, which provides up to six weeks of benefits (up to eight weeks starting July 1). The family member must be a relative covered by the program and have a medical certification.
Disability insurance and paid family leave are part of the same program, called state disability insurance. It’s funded by employees through payroll deductions, usually marked as CASDI. Each provides about 60% to 70% of pay up to a maximum of $1,300 a week.
Not all California employees participate in the program. State and local government employees, including those employed by public schools, are exempt, although some workplaces participate through an elective coverage program.
Also, some employers offer a voluntary plan for disability insurance and paid family leave instead of the state program. Contact your employer for claims related to voluntary plans.
Independent contractors may be eligible for these benefits if they pay into disability insurance elective coverage, said EDD spokeswoman Loree Levy.
Unemployment benefits. If your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19, you can file for unemployment insurance. You must be able and available to work to get benefits, which generally range from $40-$450 per week for up to six months. However, if you are getting reduced benefits because you are working less than full time, you could get more than 26 weeks, Levy said.
Self-employed people can opt in to elective coverage, and if they meet all the requirements, could qualify for unemployment benefits, Levy said.
Work sharing: Employers whose business has slowed down because of the coronavirus can apply for the unemployment insurance work sharing program. It lets employers reduce employees’ hours and wages, which can be partially offset with unemployment insurance.
Paid sick leave: The industrial relations department administers the state’s paid sick leave law, which requires almost all public- and private-sector employers to give almost all workers in California at least three paid sick days per year.
If they have leave available, employees can use it “for absences due to illness, the diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing health condition or preventative care for the employee or the employee’s family member. Preventative care may include self-quarantine as a result of potential exposure to COVID-19 if quarantine is recommended by civil authorities” or in other situations, such as exposure to the virus or travel in a high-risk area, the department says.
For other FAQs related to paid sick leave and its coordination with other benefits, see www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm.
Note that some cities have paid sick leave ordinances that provide higher benefits. San Francisco’s requires employers to provide paid sick leave to all employees who work in the city. Employees earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, but employers can cap their balances at 72 hours (10 or more employees) or 40 hours (smaller employers).
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