Almost 500,000 public school jobs have been lost during the pandemic, according to Labor Department Statistics, but many California teachers say they are having unique challenges trying to get their unemployment benefits.
California's Employment Development Department says school employees may not be eligible to receive benefits if you file your claim over a school break like the summer. They say they make exceptions if an employee can prove that they do not have reasonable assurance that they will be able to return to school at the end of the break.
Jennifer Schafran was one of more than 200 Sweetwater Union District employees who got laid off in June because of the district's budget crisis. While her layoff was not COVID-19 related, she did file her claim at the same time as millions of Californians. Today she hasn't received anything from the EDD even though she says Sweetwater sent a letter proving she got laid off.
"I’ve just got very minimal in my savings right now and $20 to my name in my actual bank account, so it's heartbreaking," she said.
Schafran says an EDD employee told her that her claim had been flagged because she was a teacher and that a specialist would have to fix her file so she could retroactively get her benefits from the summer months. Right now she's just waiting for the money.
Kelli Dickinson was working as a preschool teacher for 5 years at Mesa College's Child Development Center. She received a layoff notice in June, filed her claim with EDD and has not gotten any money in the last two and a half months.
"I’m a single mother. I have one income in my household which is me and it's just, yeah, a lot of stress, a lot of worry," she said.
Schafran recently found out she got a temporary 90-day teaching gig. She'll get her first paycheck for that job in two weeks, but in the meantime she says like so many other teachers - she's having to pay for internet and online subscriptions to teach and making the tough choices about what to cut in her own personal expenses.
Teachers aren't the only ones who haven't received their benefit checks amid the pandemic. Half the California legislature penned a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 6 calling for reform of the employment department.