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Independent Contractors Struggle Through Process To Receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

California’s self-employed residents have been waiting weeks to tap into the state’s unemployment fund but when many went to apply on Tuesday, the process led to frustration instead of relief.

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — California’s self-employed residents have been waiting weeks to tap into the state’s unemployment fund but when many went to apply on Tuesday, the process led to frustration instead of relief.

Melissa Wu thought she was getting ahead of the game when she logged onto the Employment Development Department’s website at midnight.

“So I went in at midnight only to see that the EDD system was under maintenance at 5:30.”

Unfortunately for Wu, the EDD wasn’t accepting applications for its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA until 10 a.m.

“Then the system was overloaded and wasn’t able to connect me to EDD resources,” she said.

Hairstylist Jamie Rovner, also tried to apply for benefits Tuesday morning after not having any income for six weeks.

“Nobody chose for this to happen, said Rovner.  “I know it’s no one’s fault, but the government shut me down and in return, they haven’t done one thing for me in six weeks.”

“I was applying, and it kept freezing and freezing and freezing,” she said.

She finally received confirmation that her application was accepted about an hour after she started it.

“I am lucky that I’m a little bit smart and I have savings, otherwise I would have to ask people for money,” Rovner said tearfully.

On the EDD’s Twitter feed, there are dozens of people complaining that the system was crashing on them.

Governor Newsom acknowledged the issues people have been having.

“Our expectation that when the site is more stable today and tomorrow, next few days, there will be a 24-48 hour turnaround in terms of those checks to be distributed,” Newsom said.

Wu wasn’t ever able to complete her application. She filed for unemployment weeks ago, right after the shutdown began.

EDD used the last W2 she had on file, from 2017, before she opened her own travel agency.

Now, the department is saying she is ineligible to receive money, even though she should fall under the PUA.

“The state and the government have to step up in more than just providing funds, they need to provide support so people can access those funds,” Wu said.

Gov. Newsom also said EDD’s phone system is improving, going from about 400 thousand minutes of talk time last week, to 1 million minutes on Monday alone.