LOS ANGELES – California will stop granting unemployment benefits to people who are not actively applying for work, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced Thursday.
Federal law requires people who are out of work to be actively looking for work to be eligible for unemployment benefits. But the federal government allowed states to waive that requirement during the pandemic because many businesses were ordered to close.
California has waived its work search rule since March 2020. But on Thursday, the Employment Development Department said it would resume the requirement on July 11.
“California offers many resources to help people find safe and appropriate careers and training opportunities that keep the economy moving,” said agency Director Rita Saenz.
The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic were so strong and so sudden that most states made significant changes to their unemployment benefit programs to accommodate the flood of new claims.
Since the pandemic began, California, the most populous state in the country with nearly 40 million people, has processed more than 20 million unemployment claims and paid more than $ 128 billion in benefits.
Typically, the most money someone can get from unemployment benefits in California is $ 450 per week. But Congress has added an additional $ 300 a week on top of that due to the pandemic. That extra money won’t expire until September.
But as coronavirus cases have dropped as more people get vaccinated, employers have said they are having a hard time finding people to work with. In response, most states have already required people to look for work in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits. And 25 states have stopped paying the extra $ 300 a week in benefits in an attempt to push people back into the workforce.
Newsom, who will likely face recall elections later this year, has resisted most of those changes. Earlier this month, Newsom said the decision by other states to end the additional $ 300 weekly benefit was based on “politics, not economics.”
This week, Newsom lifted most coronavirus restrictions on businesses, announcing it’s the state’s grand reopening. But data from the US Department of Labor shows that about 2 million people still receive unemployment benefits in California.
As an anecdote, many employers have said they have trouble finding workers. California’s 45 workforce development boards, whose goal is to place people in jobs, say fewer people have turned to them looking for work, according to Michael Bernick, research director for the Force Association, California Labor.
“Workers don’t return to their job fairs in significant numbers,” he said.
California has added more than 390,000 jobs since February. In April alone, California accounted for 38% of all new jobs added in the US. But that same month, California still had the second highest unemployment rate in the country at 8.3%.