By now, it’s no secret that Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) systems across the country are not working. On May Day, we published the results of our latest survey, in which a shocking 84% of Freelancers Union members who had applied for government assistance had not yet received a single dollar.
Four weeks later, things have not improved.
While we work to improve the laws that govern the PUA system, we are also working on the ground to help individuals get through the system as it exists today. If you’ve had your unemployment or PUA claim erroneously denied or miscalculated, or have been stuck in limbo for weeks waiting for your claim to be processed or disbursed, here’s what to do.
In New York City
A new free legal clinic run by Prof. Minna Kotkin at the Brooklyn Law School has been set up to assist workers who have had their unemployment/PUA claims denied or are facing other coronavirus-related employment discrimination. The Pandemic Unemployment Relief Clinic has more than 100 legal students ready to assist you with the appeals process and provide legal advice and possibly representation should you need it.
Fill out their intake form here. You'll need to have whatever claim documentation you may have on hand in order to provide a brief description of your situation.
Legal Services NYC has also committed to provide assistance to those who need it. Call their hotline at (917) 661-4500, where you'll be asked a few brief questions about your needs before you are paired with an attorney who can help. Their service is available in multiple languages.
In San Francisco
We have secured an agreement with State Sen. Scott Weiner’s office that they will speak with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) on behalf of Freelancers Union members. If you have a claim that needs review or has been denied and are having trouble getting through to EDD, reach out to his office at (415) 557-1300, let them know you are a Freelancers Union member, and provide the following information:
- Name on claim
- Address on claim
- Your phone number and email address
- Date of birth
- EDD Customer Account Number (if you have it) or full SSN
- Date your application was submitted, whether you’ve received anything from EED as a response, and a brief description of the issue
His office will submit a formal request to EDD for response on your behalf.
CAMEO (California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity), in partnership with Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center and Legal Aid At Work, has set up a free PUA legal clinic for self-employed workers in California. The goal of this program is to help you determine if you're eligible for PUA and guide you through the application process.
To get their assistance, call (415) 484-8372 or fill out this online form. A volunteer will ask you a few questions and set up an appointment with a Legal Aid At Work counselor.
If you have a pending, denied, or miscalculated claim and are having trouble getting through to the agency that manages UI/PUA claims in your state, your best bet is to contact your local representative and ask them for help. Find your state representatives here.
When you call them, use the following script to ask for their assistance:
Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME]. I’m a member of your constituency, and I’m a member of the Freelancers Union. I need help getting through to the Department of Labor to review my Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claim.
Then provide a brief description of your situation, including how long you’ve been waiting for a decision or if your claim was rejected or miscalculated and you need to appeal. Be prepared to give them your claim number, account number, and any other information that can help them identify your case.
We are working to secure agreements with other representatives across the country to advocate on your behalf, and will keep this post updated with the relevant contact information.