The world was unprepared for the devastation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. This pushed the government to put new restrictions like quarantine protocols, isolation, transitioning to work-from-home employment, and limited socialization. As a result, there was a decrease in labor force participation. In particular, California was among the greatly affected states, recording a 9.8% unemployment rate in October 2020.
Even with the introduction of vaccines and booster shots, social relief assistance, and other health protocols, the global populace is still keeping up with the effects of the pandemic. New variants have been recorded, alongside the rise of other diseases and illnesses. With the threat of COVID-19 still present, what benefits can an individual claim to cope with this public health issue?
According to Pratt Williams, here are the different COVID-19 benefits that one can claim in California:
In this era of COVID-19, employees, laborers, and workers have valid claims to receive their compensation benefits.
To safeguard workers with compensation, programs like disability insurance, paid family leaves, and paid sick leave were put in place in California. Other response measures taken were COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave and the paid family & medical leaves under the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Workers’ compensation claims for temporary disabilities were also established. One can receive up to two-thirds of the gross wages lost while recovering from a work-related illness or injury.
For small businesses, they can enroll in the Paycheck Protection Program to get incentives to keep their workers on the payroll. Restaurant businesses can also help their staff through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Employees also enjoy employee retention tax credit for their share on payroll taxes, including Medicare taxes.
Pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA)
Although it was issued only for a limited time, the California federal government has also set up a mechanism to aid unemployed people during the spike of the pandemic. For those who cannot receive regular employment benefits, the pandemic unemployment assistance was set up to cater to unemployed individuals from February 2, 2020, to September 4, 2021.
Business owners, self-employed workers, and independent contractors can avail of this benefit as long as they provide documentary evidence, such as business licenses, employment certificates, paycheck stubs, and tax return forms.
This program served as relief aid to its beneficiaries, as they received a minimum of $167 per week for every week they were unemployed due to COVID-19. Additionally, there was also an additional $300 each week in the program’s fourth phase as part of the continued federal assistance for claims.
Medical and healthcare coverage
With COVID-19 posing as one of the deadliest health diseases in human history, the US government also strengthened and expanded its medical and healthcare benefits for everyone affected by the pandemic.
As its primary response action, California has put its health centers on full duty to assist with coronavirus testing and vaccination for individuals aged 12 and above.
Covered California was established for uninsured individuals to get financial help and buy health insurance, including Medi-Cal. This was also beneficial to small businesses since they could acquire affordable and premium health insurance within their company budget.
The pandemic also affected the logistics of food supply and distribution. During the first three months of the pandemic, it was reported that nearly three million households in California went without sufficient food.
To combat the problem of food insecurity, California has set up assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Moreover, CalFresh, which was previously called Food Stamps, also provided nearly $234 monthly food assistance to people and families with low income.
Aside from government actions, initiatives were also made by other concerned individuals and organizations. Free groceries at local food banks, free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch meals, and nutrition support for women and children were also set in place.
California was severely hit by the pandemic, where there were 7.8 million recorded cases and 79,000 deaths as of January 2022. To ease the financial burden caused by the virus, California has also established its COVID-19 funeral assistance. By providing official death certificates and signed statements from local examiners, one can receive funeral assistance funds through direct deposit or a check by mail.
California has implemented measures to ensure that everyone affected by the pandemic still enjoys benefits to cope with the pandemic. By emphasizing the aspects of labor, public health, nutrition, and social assistance, citizens of California can take a breath of relief knowing that they can get almost all benefits as a response to the COVID-19 aftermath.
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