April 28 (UPI) -- California will begin accepting applications Tuesday for unemployment benefits for those who typically don't qualify, like gig workers, the self-employed and freelancers -- joining a number of other states that have already done so.
State Labor Secretary Julie Su said applicants who file under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program can expect to receive benefits within 2-4 days.
"In order for us to get unemployment benefits out as quickly as possible, we will be automatically paying the $167 a week minimum," she said.
Self-employed, independent contractors and freelancers typically don't qualify for jobless benefits because they don't pay into the system with unemployment taxes or their company doesn't pay the taxes for them. Independent contractors, online platform workers, contract and on-call workers and temporary workers are known as "gig" workers.
Under the program, individuals who are otherwise able and available to work -- including gig workers, independent contractors, freelancers and the self-employed, as well as those who lack sufficient work history or otherwise don't qualify for regular unemployment -- can receive up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits through Dec. 26.
Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and Utah have already implemented the program and begun paying benefits -- while North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Missouri, Washington, Wisconsin, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina have started taking applications.
Su said the application process in California couldn't begin until Tuesday because the state's Employment Development Department had to build a new system to manage claims.
Arizona has also announced that it will begin to process applications on May 12, through a private vendor, and will begin paying claims that week.
"This solution will help get benefits to people faster, with payments being made retroactively to for those eligible. We will continue to put forward all available resources, including working nights and weekends, to stand up this brand-new program to get individuals the help they need," said Arizona Department of Economic Security Interim Director Tom Betlach.