LA County Announces New Hotline To Help Workers, Business Owners Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — On Thursday, more than 2,000 families lined up, car after car, to pick up food in Van Nuys.

“I’d certainly say it’s a sad indication of what’s going on,” Michael Flood, CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, said. “But no, I’m not surprised.”

Flood spoke with CBS Los Angeles about the difference one month of a shutdown can make.

“We’re hearing people who were doing fine a month ago,” Flood said. “And they’ve been laid off, they’ve been furloughed or they’ve had their hours cut back, and now they’re in a situation of just needing help right away.”

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In California alone, more than 2.4 million jobless claims were filed last month as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Just last week, the state processed more than 925,000 claims — up 2,418% over last year.

And on Thursday, California announced that it will add $600 in weekly benefits on top of normal unemployment checks starting Sunday.

“I filed for the first time in my life,” Darin Sanone said. “I have never filed in 40 years.”

Sanone is a working performer and bartender who was able to find regular work before the outbreak. But then everything came to a grinding halt.

“The bar closed, life closed,” he said. “All of the studios are down, so no one is auditioning. I’ve been working for 40 years nonstop, never been on unemployment, never been without work in 40 years.”

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To handle the increase in claims, state officials have added more than 1,000 workers to the Economic Development Department to help process the claims faster.

And Los Angeles County is also trying to help, announcing a new hotline that will assist small business owners, laid off workers and those in the gig economy navigate the system to get the aid they need.

“If you’re in the gig economy, if you’re outside the formal economy, if you don’t speak English, folks like you are often the last to find out, the last to know and the last in line,” Joseph Nicchitta, Los Angeles County Consumer and Business Affairs director, said. “So my department’s mission, and my mission, is to support you and the entrepreneurs like you.”

Those seeking help can contact the L.A. County Business & Worker Disaster Help Center online or by calling 823-238-4450.