California government relief guide
To help drivers and delivery people during the COVID-19 crisis, we're gathering up-to-date information about government financial support that you may be eligible for. In this guide, we'll answer important questions and share resources to help you apply.¹
Before you get started, please remember that the official sources of information are state and federal government agencies. We’ll continue to revise this guide as we receive additional information. Check back here over the coming weeks for updates.
Not in California? Go here to find information for other locations.
Last updated: January 19, 2021
What types of government financial support are available?
There are a few types of government financial support available, many of them new for independent contractors like you.
In March 2020, the US government passed legislation that may mean you’re eligible for government financial assistance. You’ve probably heard this referred to as the CARES Act. In December 2020, additional legislation was enacted that continued government financial assistance programs. Under this legislation, you may be able to access financial relief for lost earnings due to the COVID-19 pandemic through:
- Loans that may be forgivable
- Direct financial aid available to individuals who have lost income
- Paid leave tax credits
In some cases, it may take several weeks or longer before state agencies process your applications and claims.
What is direct financial aid?
The federal government has made it possible for independent contractors who have lost income due to COVID-19 to access the same kinds of benefits that states traditionally provide to workers who receive W-2s and file for unemployment insurance. You may have heard this federally funded direct financial assistance referred to as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
How much could I receive?
The total amount of financial aid you could receive will depend on your individual circumstances, including your state's calculation and your current and historic earnings.
Is this related to the $600 per week payments?
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) provided $600 per week for every week an individual qualified for either federal or state unemployment relief for the weeks ending April 4, 2020 through July 25, 2020. This federal benefit ended and will remain expired unless Congress reinstates the program.
For how long am I eligible to receive direct financial aid?
Under PUA, you may be able to get up to 39 weeks of PUA payments, until December 31, 2020, from the federal government.
Are payments retroactive?
PUA can go back as far as February 2, 2020, if you qualify and can document a loss of income due to COVID-19 earlier than your filing date.
How can I tell if I’m eligible?
You may be eligible for PUA if you’ve lost income due to COVID-19. If you have another source of income where you receive a W-2 form for your taxes, you should check with your state about how to properly file because you may be eligible for regular unemployment insurance. Check the FAQ section below for more details about the COVID-19-related circumstances that might make you eligible for this assistance.
How can I apply for direct financial aid in California?
The California state government is currently accepting applications from independent contractors for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Below we’ll provide some resources to help you through the application process. Please note that if you are already receiving regular Unemployment Insurance benefits from the California Employment Development Department (EDD), you will not qualify for PUA benefits.
Collect your information and documents
Since not all application portals will automatically save your information, it’s recommended that you prepare the following before you begin the process to avoid losing your progress. Have a pen and paper ready to record information
- Social Security number
- California driver’s license or ID card number (if you have either one)
- Bank account information (routing and checking account numbers)
- Complete mailing address and zip code
You will not need to submit any documents with your initial application, but you will be asked to provide your total income from 2019.
- Uber-related or other independent contractor earnings
- For Uber-related earnings, you may download your quarterly tax summary from your driver dashboard on the Tax Information tab. This document was created in partnership with EDD specifically for PUA applications, so it should have all relevant earnings information.
- Remember to report any other independent contractor earnings. This may include earnings with other rideshare apps.
- If you had other W-2 earnings in the last 18 months
- Work history from the last 18 months. This includes the name of any companies as they appear on your paycheck, the dates of employment, hours worked per week, the total wages you earned before taxes were taken out (gross wages), hourly rate of pay, and the reason you are no longer working.
- Specific information from your last employer or company. This includes your employer’s name, mailing address, phone number, supervisor’s name, total wages you earned before taxes were taken out (gross wages) for the last week you worked, and the reason for your unemployment.
Additional information depending on your circumstances
- If you are not a U.S. Citizen: you will need a green card, a visa that allows you to work in the US, or an Alien Registration Number.
- If you were a federal employee: you will need your Notice to Federal Employees About Unemployment Insurance (SF8).
- If you served in the military in the last 18 months: you will need your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD 214).
The application process
If you applied prior to April 28th and received a $0 message, and you have not requested a wage investigation, then you may apply for PUA by filing a new claim through UI Online.
Resources for the application process
- EDD’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance main page provides an overview of the process.
- EDD’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance FAQ helps answer general questions you might have, particularly about providing proof of income.
- The Protect App-Based Drivers and Services coalition created a step-by-step video of the application process that might help you navigate the portal.
Create your account and start a claim
- Go to EDD’s Benefits Programs Online portal and click “Log In or Register.”
- Once you’re logged in, continue using “UI Online.”
Complete your application
- Follow the steps in the application, please note that there is just one single application for both “regular” unemployment and PUA. Based on the answers to the application, EDD will determine which type of benefit you’re eligible for.
- Since there are not separate applications, there may be a few sections that are confusing to complete as an independent contractor. Here are some tips for you if you earned with Uber in 2019 and did not have any W-2 income:
- On the Employment History screen when you supply your last employer information, select “No.”
- On the Availability Information page, answer question 7 with “No.”
- On the Disaster Information page, answer 1a.3 with “You are an independent contractor.”
- When you are asked for a work type, there is no option for “rideshare.” Instead, you should select “cab driver” or “delivery driver” as an option. Right now, that’s the closest classification for app-based rideshare and delivery drivers for the EDD’s purposes.
Respond to questionnaires or phone calls received from EDD
- If the income information you provide indicates that you meet an annual earnings threshold of $17,368 or more, the EDD may contact you for additional information in order to increase your PUA weekly benefit amount.
The EDD will confirm your application and weekly benefit amount via email and postal mail. You should receive the confirmation of your application and your EDD debit card in the mail within two weeks.
After you're approved
If you’re approved for PUA, you must claim weekly benefits in order to receive payment for each week you experience reduced income due to COVID-19 and meet the eligibility requirements. This is a required process to update the EDD with your unemployment status and basic eligibility information, including:
- Are you physically able to work?
- Are you available for work?
- Are you ready and willing to accept work immediately?
- Did you refuse work?
- Did you work and earn wages? If so, how much?
The fastest way to certify is on UI Online, but you can also do this by phone by calling 1-866-333-4606 or via mail.
To avoid unnecessary delays, it's always a good idea before submitting any application to make sure that you are up to date with any legal requirements, including timely filed and paid taxes wherever applicable.
What types of loans and emergency cash advances are available?
There are two programs that are new for independent contractors under the CARES Act. These programs have run out of funds, but you can always check the SBA website for updates on relief options and funding. We'll continue to update this guide as we receive additional information, including if these programs are replenished with more funding:
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
This program allows participating banks and lenders to offer forgivable loans to small businesses and independent contractors.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
This program allows small businesses and independent contractors to apply for a non-forgivable EIDL loan.
What are paid leave tax credits?
Signed on March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides tax credits to small businesses and independent contractors for leave due to circumstances related to COVID-19. This means that you may be able to claim paid leave tax credits that could lower your tax liability or even make you eligible for a refund.
What circumstances qualify?
If you’re unable to work due to self-quarantine or because you or a family member are sick, or because you must provide child care due to closures caused by COVID-19, you could be eligible. Leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, could qualify.
How much would the tax credits be worth?
The amount of tax credits will vary based on location and circumstance. More information is available from the IRS under the “Overview of Paid Sick Leave Refundable Credit,” “Overview of Paid Family Leave Refundable Credit,” and “Specific Provisions Related to Self-Employed Individuals” (FAQ 60-66) sections.
How can I receive the tax credits?
If you have additional questions about this program or your tax circumstances, you should speak to a licensed tax adviser.
Where can I find more information?
No one has all the answers right now, but here are some helpful resources from Uber, our partners, and government agencies.
This tool can help you determine eligibility and automate much of the application process, then facilitate the federal relief application process and, in coordination with the SBA, disburse PPP funds, allowing quick access to relief. QuickBooks Capital will be able to begin processing PPP loan applications soon.
Frequently asked questions
- What kind of circumstances would make me eligible for PUA?
According to Department of Labor guidance, you may be eligible for PUA if you are authorized to work in the US, not otherwise eligible for traditional unemployment benefits, and certify that you are available to work but not able to work because of circumstances related to COVID-19 that include, but aren’t limited to:
- You are diagnosed with COVID-19 or recommended to quarantine by a health professional
- A household member has been diagnosed with COVID-19
- You must care for a family or household member diagnosed with COVID-19
- You are the primary caregiver for a child or other household member whose normal activities are disrupted by the COVID-19 public health emergency
- You are unable to reach your place of employment because of imposed quarantine or recommended self-quarantine due, for example, to a compromised immune system
- Your business has been forced to suspend operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic because an emergency state or municipal order restricting movement makes continued operations unsustainable
In addition, as an independent contractor with reportable income, you may also qualify for PUA if you are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities, forcing you to suspend those activities.
- Do I need to have stopped driving completely in order to be eligible for PUA?
- Can I still drive or deliver while I’m collecting PUA?
Yes, but note that your state may require you to report earnings on a weekly basis, and PUA benefits only apply if you can demonstrate that your income is reduced.
- I am applying for a green card. Is my green card status at risk if I apply for these benefits?
We know this is complicated, and we recommend contacting an immigration professional such as an attorney who can review your eligibility and specific immigration situation. The Department of Justice has a list of pro bono legal service providers that may be helpful.
- I still have my full-time job, but I can’t drive or deliver using Uber because of the pandemic. Can I still get relief for my lost income from driving or delivering?
As of April 17, 2020, federal guidance hasn’t been issued on this question, which means that different states may handle this scenario differently. You can visit your state Department of Labor website for guidance on whether you can make claims for lost income from work as an independent contractor that is additional to your W-2 income.
- I lost my full-time job and am currently getting unemployment payments. Can I also apply for relief as an independent contractor?
If you qualify for or are already receiving traditional unemployment insurance, you may not be eligible for PUA. You should visit your state website for additional guidance.
- I received non-government financial assistance. Can I still apply for PUA?
You can still apply for PUA, but if you received financial aid that replaced lost income, you may need to report it on your application.
- Are the funds I receive through PUA taxable?
Yes. Unemployment assistance is taxable.
- Will my Uber account be deactivated if I apply for unemployment benefits?
No. Any decisions you make to apply for government financial support will have no impact on the status of your account.
- The unemployment/PUA application asks for contact information of all past employers. What contact information do I use for Uber?
You are considered an independent contractor, not an employee, based on your agreement with Uber. You should not have to provide contact information for companies that you do not have an employment relationship with -- depending on how your state collects information on this question, you could do one of the following:
- Select “no” if there is a drop-down menu
- If you operate under an LLC or other structure, you could list that information
- If you operate as a sole proprietor, you could list your personal information
- What kind of documentation will I need to provide to qualify for a PPP loan?
- If I receive an EIDL Emergency Advance, will I still be able to apply for a PPP loan?
Yes, if you receive an EIDL Emergency Advance, you are still able to apply for a PPP loan. Based on SBA guidance, if you received an EIDL loan between January 31, 2020, and April 3, 2020, the amount will be deducted from the total amount that you could borrow through a PPP loan. However, because an EIDL Emergency Advance does not have to be paid back, it doesn't impact your total borrowable PPP amount.
- If I receive a PPP loan, will I still be able to file for unemployment benefits?
We’re working on finding a clear answer to this question, but as of April 17, 2020, federal guidance has not addressed whether individuals who received a PPP loan could later receive PUA.
- I received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. Can I still drive or deliver?
Yes. However, make sure to consult with your lender to ensure you understand all the steps you will need to take to qualify for loan forgiveness of a Paycheck Protection Program loan.
- I had a W-2 job that I lost due to COVID, but a majority of my earnings are from driving and/or delivering using Uber. Am I eligible for PUA?
Even if your income as an independent contractor was more than your W-2 income, federal guidance states that PUA is only available to individuals who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. This means that you will not be eligible for PUA if you are receiving or are eligible to receive traditional unemployment. But if your W-2 income does not meet the minimum monetary requirements for traditional unemployment, you have exhausted traditional unemployment, or are otherwise ineligible for traditional unemployment, you may be eligible for PUA.
¹The material provided on this page does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, financial, tax, or other advice. It is for informational purposes only. Please consult your attorney or financial adviser to obtain advice with respect to your particular situation. For your convenience, this page contains links to third-party websites. Uber is not responsible for the content in those third-party sites or the products or services offered through them. While we will make every effort to keep this site up to date, for the most current information please see the respective governmental or organizational sites.