California has been ravaged by wildfires for a few days now. Firefighters and emergency services have been striving to contain the blazes as new fires keep breaking out. In Sonoma County, where the Kincade fire has made an enormous hit, life is slowly returning to track, as people look at what comes next. The risk of fires worsening is up since fast blowing winds can spread the embers.
Pacific Gas and Electric Utility shut down power in several counties to prevent fires starting from electrical malfunctions. This outage impacts businesses in a big way, particularly for wage workers and contractors who are directly or indirectly dependent on daily workflow.
The obvious result of the mass evacuations ordered is the loss of work time. For daily wage workers, this has a severe impact on basics like housing, meals, etc. The power cuts are harsher upon those living in poverty. Those who live upon low savings struggle when they lose employment due to the above reasons.
In contrast, as the wine county has time-sensitive harvest operations, abandoning the area is not an option for those whose survival depends on the industry. Fires always end up choking the air with dust, smoke, and debris, which directly affects a day laborer or domestic worker’s health. The damage to the land takes a long time to recover, and while it does, its former employees must make do by other means.
There are reports about people being forced to remain in the danger zone for fear of unemployment. Particularly, migrant workers and immigrants have preferred to endanger their safety as they tend to be ineligible for unemployment insurance.
On the upside, previous wildfires have shown an increase in local communities’ employment and labor engagement due to fire suppression and support activities. The post-fire reconstruction may support and spur the local labor market up to an extent.
Counties whose economies are reliant on recreation-based activities generally show a decline in wages and employment, while counties depending on government jobs do not show such an effect. Hazard pay and overtime allowance might increase in fire-associated jobs for a while after a wildfire.
Availing Disaster Unemployment Assistance to cope with California Wildfires
There arises a situation of joblessness during the California wildfires, which has various direct and indirect consequences for workers. Jobless claims have gone up during the end of October, with the largest increase seen in California.
The California Employment Development Department has announced that people losing their wages due to the Kincade fire can apply for disaster unemployment assistance (DUA). Usually, UI benefits are paid out after a waiting period of a week post-filing a claim, but the government has waived it as part of an emergency proclamation. Thus, the claimants receive two weeks of unemployment benefits on their first payment.
As the Kincade fire has not yet been declared as a federal disaster, the self-employed people would not be able to claim unemployment assistance.
The amounts paid out depend on past earnings and may vary from $40-$450. Claims can be filed online, by phone, mail, or fax. Claimants can call the toll-free number 1-800-300-5616 between 8 a.m and 12 noon (Pacific Time).
If you are owed claims currently and are unable to receive the payments at your regular address, you can contact the local post office. Remember that the DUA deadline is Dec 18, 2019.
If you need to claim unemployment benefits in California, you have the added advantage of availing California Training Benefits (CTB). You can use these programs to educate yourself further and acquire high-demand skills. You can also explore new career avenues all while being able to draw Unemployment Insurance benefits.
The programs opted for must be approved by the California Employment Development Department (EDD). You can even get an exemption from actively looking for work, which otherwise is a pre-requisite to qualifying for unemployment insurance.
Is a CTB Program Useful?
There are a variety of training programs which unemployed workers can attend. These programs make it easier to re-enter the workforce. Some of the programs permitted by the EDD are:
- Registered Eligible Training Providers from the ETPL list who offer short courses for high-demand vocations
- Government organized training under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), etc.
- Apprenticeship programs where you can earn and get educational credits while working
- Trade Association, Union, or eligible Employer-Sponsored Training
- Programs to acquire teaching credentials in single subjects
Many of these programs also teach you how to build a better resume, write a good cover letter and develop interview skills. This would help you in your job search.
California job training programs can help you gain the skills needed to transition into a new career or get better opportunities in your present one.
How to Avail California Training Benefits While Drawing UI?
The steps to be followed to enroll in job training in California are given below:
- Notify the EDD of your interest in California Training Benefits when you file your unemployment insurance claim.
- Once you have chosen your program, ensure that it meets all the eligibility criteria to qualify for CTB especially if it is self-arranged
- When you start attending the training program or school, you must report your attendance to EDD in that week
- EDD determines your eligibility for training benefits by having you fill a questionnaire or answer a telephonic interview with a representative
- You need to provide information on your attendance, the training school or facility, your career objectives, etc
- EDD then sends you a Notice of Determination DE 1080 containing the results of whether or not you are found eligible
- DE 1080 explains your rights and responsibilities
You can claim UI even if you are found to be not eligible for CTB. However, you would have to meet the usual eligibility criteria for unemployment insurance. These include actively searching for work, available and willing to accept work, etc.
Note that the EDD will not pay any school or training-related expenses such as tuition fees, books, transportation, etc. There are however federal, state or private financial aid programs you can avail.
Eligibility Criteria for Self-Arranged Job Training in California
You should have been unemployed for 4 weeks due to a lack of demand for your skills. Your training has to be related to a skill that is in demand in the current market. The CTB program must have the accreditation of the United States Department of Education or the California Bureau for Private Post-secondary Education.
Only full-time training programs of reasonable duration (less than 2 years) are eligible.
You can even get additional weeks of benefits if you choose to attend a training program after your claim has begun. You have to report such interest within the 16th week of your benefit period. You can avail a maximum of 52 times your weekly benefit amount to complete a longer-term program. There is only one extension possible per CTB approved training program.
California’s Job Training Benefits programs are a useful way to keep yourself engaged and updated while you figure out the next steps in your career. There are programs for older workers as well as for youngsters aged under 18.