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Unemployment Benefits for Immigrants

by Ally Bolour | Jul 30, 2020

Immigrants may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they satisfy the requirements.  

Unemployment benefits are administered by each state, with input from the federal government.  Most States provide for up to 26 weeks of benefits to their unemployed workers.  Federal guidelines require that unemployed workers must be unemployed through no fault of their own and they must be actively looking for work at the time they apply for benefits.

There are two time periods that are relevant for receiving unemployment benefits.  During the Base Period, applicants need to have worked sufficient hours and have paid into the system prior to being able to collect. During the Benefit Period, applicants may collect benefits up to a set amount as established by the State they reside in.

Foreign nationals may qualify for unemployment benefits if they had authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to work (EAD,) actually worked the requisite number of hours, lost their job through no fault of their own, AND stillhave a valid EAD during the Benefit period.

CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020 provided an initial $2 Trillion recovery package which provides in part, an additional $600 per week until July 31, 2020 to the unemployment benefits for qualified applicants.  Additionally, CARES Act added up to 13 weeks to the typical 26 week Benefit period.  

Undocumented immigrants, who comprise 10% of California workforce, do not qualify for any of the federal relief stimulus programs.  However, California is now the first State to offer cash benefits for undocumented individuals via the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program providing benefits of $500 per individual or $1000/household.  The State and private funding of this program totals $125 Million and it is now available.  This is not a handout as undocumented workers contribute over $2.5 Billion to the State coffers via local and city taxes.

Also California Employment Development Department (EDD)just extended its working hours to 7 days a week from 8 AM – 8 PM.  Furthermore, Governor Newsom just signed an Executive Order to amend the regular unemployment benefit process to not only extend the Benefit Period, but also to relax the qualification requirements during the Base Period.  The new rules go into effect on April 28, 2020 are retroactive.

Please feel free to contact any one of our attorneys if you have questions about your immigration status, or any federal/state benefits you may be qualified for.

Stay safe and healthy. 

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