Uber/Lyft & EDD: Filing for Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits As a Rideshare Driver in California
When the pandemic struck in 2020, the demand for app based drivers went to zero overnight. With no income, drivers throughout california looked for some way to pay the bills and keep a roof over our head.
Unemployment was the obvious choice. California legislation AB5 clarified that as app based workers we had all the rights of employees, including benefits like unemployment. And without work, we went to apply only to be told by the EDD system that we weren’t qualified.
The catch was that the companies have always misclassified us as independent contractors, even though under the law we had full labor rights. Under the ABC test, if the companies main line of work was driving, and we were not setting our own fares, we fell under employment rights.
Getting the bureaucracy of EDD to recognize this - despite clear understanding of EDD leadership that we qualified for unemployment benefits - was a giant task. RDU driver members went to work, figuring out how to do it, how to get the bureaucracy to do the right thing and part with the money.
Later in the pandemic the federal government provided PUA for ICs which helped many, but because PUA was based on net, not gross, regular unemployment was a better deal for most drivers. So we kept the pressure on to ensure drivers were able to access traditional unemployment.
This page represents the knowledge that drivers gathered about how to work through the system to get unemployment. Because of the work of drivers supporting drivers, RDU now has a seat at the table of an EDD stakeholders advisory panel to help make these benefits available even to employees who are misclassified.
Over 100,000 misclassified workers made use of the information on this page. Since then, the industry’s proposition 22 has taken our right to unemployment insurance away. But we continue the fight for our full rights.
Critical Updates: End of Federal UI/PUA Programs!
For the past year and a half, many drivers in California have benefited from unemployment assistance programs - both regular UI as well as PUA. For many, it has been a vital life-line that has allowed us to survive the pandemic, while keeping us and our families safe at home.
However, EDD has announced that federally-subsidized assistance will end on September 4th and 11th, 2021, and many drivers will see their unemployment benefits cut or end. Three assistance programs are currently scheduled to end on September 4th: Disaster Assistance(PUA) Pandemic Additional Compensation (PAC), and PEUC Extension tier 2 / Extension tier 2 (Augmentation). FED-ED extension benefits are currently scheduled to end September 11.
What does this mean for you?
First - you need to know whether you are receiving PUA (Pandemic Unemployment) or UI (Unemployment Insurance.)
- To find out which program you are on, UI or PUA, go to the EDD website
(https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/benefit-year-end.htm ) and click on the “Find your claim type” to figure out if you are on PUA (Disaster Assistance) or regular Unemployment Insurance (UI).
- Also, please see the screen shots at the bottom of this letter - as they may help you determine if you are on PUA or UI as well.
If you have been getting Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits on your current claim for less than 26 weeks, and have enough money left in your account, your regular benefits (the “weekly benefit amount”) may continue - but only if you are on UI.
- If you are on UI, have a remaining balance on your account, and have been getting benefits on your current claim for less than 26 weeks, your regular benefits (“weekly benefit amount”) may continue until you have received the benefits you’re owed, potentially up to 26 weeks.
- As a UI recipient, the additional $300 weekly you receive over and above your regular UI is a federal program (PAC) that will not continue. So if you are able to continue your UI benefit past September 4th, it will be reduced by $300/week.
lf you are receiving PUA, that program will end on September 4th even if you have been on it less than 26 weeks.
- Many rideshare drivers whose claims were based on pre-Prop 22 earnings were improperly put on PUA instead of UI. If you are on PUA, and based your claim on driving for Lyft/Uber in the 18 months before filing for your claim, there are two reasons you might want to explore whether you can convert your claim to UI.
- Benefit extension if you have been claiming for less than 26 weeks: You have been on PUA less than 26 weeks, and UI would help you extend your benefits beyond 9/4/21 when the PUA benefit ends for everyone.
- For some, conversion to UI might increase your benefit: If your PUA is less than the maximum $450/week or you have a negative balance in your EDD account, conversion to UI might help you secure additional benefits. Because PUA is based on your net income and UI is based on your gross income, EDD may determine you were underpaid based on your gross income, and past benefits might be paid to you.
If, however, you are receiving the minimum PUA benefit of $176/week, it is important to know what your benefit amount would be for UI, as the UI minimum is $40/week. In other words, converting may not help you receive additional benefits if you were a part-time driver and had a low amount of income working for Lyft and/or Uber.
- If you believe your situation may be helped if you were on UI, you can try to convert your PUA to UI through a process we outline on our website: https://www.drivers-united.org/p/filing-for-unemployment-as-a-driver-in-ca. Scroll down to the 2020.12.08 update to find out how to initiate a process with EDD to have your benefits converted to UI. EDD is still slow at making this happen, but the conversion has helped many whose PUA benefit was low because it was based on net income.
All of this is our best understanding of what is happening at this moment. It is possible that the Feds may extend some or parts of any of these benefits. There are some who may qualify for a new benefit year as well. As we find out more, we will post updates on our website.
It is also important to note that if you are receiving food assistance, rental assistance, and/or Covered California healthcare, those benefits will continue beyond September 4th. If you are not on those programs, but would like to start, there are good resources about those benefits here:
- For food assistance: https://www.getcalfresh.org/;
- For healthcare: https://www.coveredca.com/apply/;
- For rental & utility assistance: https://housing.ca.gov/covid_rr/
Drivers fought hard to make sure that gig-workers were able to collect UI during the pandemic, but Prop 22 eliminates this benefit for any claims based on earnings after Prop 22 went into effect. Prop 22 denies us this most basic safety net when we are in dire financial straits. This is why as drivers, we will continue to fight together for better labor protections for app-based workers. Only by fighting together can we ensure that all who do gig work have the protections and rights that all workers deserve.
If you have any questions, we’ll do our best to try and help, or at least get you to someone who can. We are not attorneys. The information above is not legal advice. We are summarizing public information about EDD benefits changes and possible resources. There are legal services attorneys you can consult for legal advice about your EDD claim, if needed.
You may write us a note with your question at driversunitedLA@gmail.com and we will try our best to get you help.
Rideshare Drivers United
To determine if you are on PUA or UI: If you are unsure which program you are currently under, follow the instructions from the EDD website on how to review your claim type:
Transaction Weekly Summary: “Disaster Assistance” means you are receiving PUA - not UI - benefits.
From EDD by way of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales's office:
So if you are stuck, on Friday, April 16, they are saying they will be able to fix your account.
Benefits have been extended through September for UI and PUA!
Q: My benefit year has ended. Do I need to reapply?
A: Lots of drivers applied for UI around a year ago. If your benefit year has ended, you must file a new claim if you have a:
• Regular unemployment claim (UI)
• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) extension
• Federal-State Extended Duration (FED-ED) extension
IF YOU ARE ON PUA YOU DO NOT HAVE TO REAPPLY – it will happen automatically. You won’t be able to certify for a couple weeks, and then they’ll send you a notice, email and/or text, that invites you to certify again. It will cover the weeks you weren’t able to certify as well.
If you’re not sure what kind of claim you have, here’s how to find out:
1. Log in to EDD Online.
2. Select Claim History.
3. Select Transactions next to the most recent week.
4. Under Program Type, it will show what type of benefits you are receiving that week.
Here's a link to the EDD page with that information:
Q: I’m being asked to re-open my PUA or UI account. Should I do it?
A: Depends on what kind of unemployment you are on. First figure out what you’re on:
Since all programs are on the same website, and most say “UI” at the top, it’s important to know how to tell which program you are receiving benefits from. Here’s a quick test:
- Go to your EDD online.
- If it says "Benefits Year XX/XX/20XX - On Extension", then they are either on PEUC or Fed-ED.
---If you have never been on UI, then this is PEUC. Do you reopen? NO. --- If it’s Fed-ED, there should be a message in your EDD inbox saying you were moved to Fed-ED. Do you reopen? YES - if prompted to do so.
- If it says “Benefit Year xx/xx/20xx - 04/10/2021” then you are on PUA. Do you reopen? NO.
- If it says “Benefit Year xx/xx/20xx - [any other date EXCEPT 4/10/2021] then you are most likely on UI. Do you reopen? YES - if prompted to do so.
- If it says "Benefits Year XX/XX/20XX - On Extension", then they are either on PEUC or Fed-ED.
In other words:
- If you are on UI or Fed-ED(a UI extension) - and you have a remaining balance as of 12/26/20 - and you are being prompted to re-open your claim, DO IT! No need to do it if you aren’t being asked to, but if you are, this is how to move to certify additional weeks.
- If you are on PUA or PEUC: DO NOT REOPEN. EVEN IF THEY ARE ASKING YOU TO DO IT.
From our legal advocates in direct contact with EDD, “Since Congress and the President took action to reauthorize these federal benefits, the Employment Development Department (EDD) is quickly reopening PEUC and PUA claims for those that had a balance on their claim as of December 26, 2020. These individuals who are waiting for their PEUC extension or PUA weeks to be made available starting December 27, 2020, do NOT need to re-open their claims. The EDD is working diligently through these claims to automatically make those weeks available, and will notify your constituents when they have weeks to certify for ongoing benefits.”
For people on PUA that means they will extend your benefits automatically, but it may take a while. And it is our thinking that re-opening for a PUA benefit just slows it down.
Income Verification For App-Based Drivers On PUA: Will I Owe Money?
Short Answer: No. Converting your PUA benefits to UI will probably fix your issue.
Long Answer: Recently, many drivers on PUA have received correspondence from EDD asking for income verification for the purpose of ensuring the correct benefit amount. All PUA recipients who are getting more than the minimum of $167 are receiving the same instructions to verify their earnings.
Because PUA benefit amount is calculated based on NET income, some drivers are reporting a negative balance after turning in their income documents - as their benefit amount was calculated based on GROSS income. Drivers have reported much concern that they will have to pay back EDD for this “overpayment”.
But here’s the deal: as app-based drivers, we were employees under the law during the time we earned the income that our benefits were calculated on. So we are actually supposed to be receiving regular UI - which is based on GROSS income - and should not result in the mistake of “overpayment.”
Because Lyft and Uber never followed the law, and did not report our wages to EDD, we are considered “misclassified” employees - and are supposed to receive UI. We were given PUA in error.
NO MISCLASSIFIED DRIVER SHOULD PAY A PENNY BACK FOR MISCALCULATED PUA BENEFITS. We understand that EDD is in agreement, that misclassified workers, like Lyft and Uber drivers, should have been put on UI. By being on UI, there should be no “overpayments” because UI benefits are calculated on GROSS income.
So it should be easy, right? EDD just needs to make sure to convert all misclassified drivers to UI - and the error goes away. Should be easy. BUT...
The problem is that EDD is not sure how to separate misclassified workers from people who are legitimate independent contractors. This means we as drivers must directly REQUEST to be converted to UI, and TELL THEM that we were misclassified Lyft/Uber drivers.
Why convert to UI?
Two reasons to convert to UI: No overpayment miscalculation, receive benefits longer.
- Regular UI is based on Gross Income - not Net - which should mean significantly higher benefits for drivers than PUA, thus not causing issues around “overpayment” related to Gross Income.
- Regular UI can be extended to up to 59 weeks - whereas PUA is over 12/31/20.
- Lyft & Uber will have to pay the state for UI - instead of taxpayers who foot the bill for PUA.
One reason to make calculations before requesting conversion: If you’re earning the PUA minimum of $167.
- According to EDD, they will not ask people receiving minimum PUA benefits of $167/week to verify their earnings. Initiating the request to convert to UI could be helpful if you need to extend those benefits longer than the end of the year - as UI benefits can extend up to 59 weeks.
Please note, however, UI minimum benefit is much lower than PUA minimum - $40 vs. $167/week. To receive at least $167/weekly in UI, your earnings for Lyft/Uber in the 18 months prior to filing for unemployment would need to be average around $367 per week - or $4250 in one 3-month period.
You can calculate how much your benefit on UI would be on this webpage: https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI-Calculator.htm Please make your own calculation before requesting a UI conversion.
How to Convert
To tell EDD you want to convert to UI, you may do it in any and all of these ways:
- Do EDD’s Income Verification Process with a Request to Convert: If you have received a letter saying you need to verify your income for PUA, alert EDD in that process that you are misclassified and need to be converted to UI:
- Begin the process of earnings verification: They will send you to this website: “Income Documentation: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: https://edd.ca.gov/unemployment/income-documentation.htm
- Send your 1099 as earnings verification as instructed: EDD will push for tax paperwork such as a Schedule C but their own webpage also says you can send in any information that will verify your income. We recommend sending your 1099s as it properly lists your GROSS income.
- Include this note in your process:
“I have been incorrectly put on PUA. I am a Lyft/Uber driver and was misclassified as an independent contractor by my employer. I request to be immediately moved from PUA to UI and request a wage audit.”
- If you have already verified your wage earnings through this process, but have not requested a move to UI: Use the same language and call and contact through the app EDD using this same language above.
- Alert EDD you need to be converted through our legal advocates: In addition, if you need to move from PUA to UI, you may also put your name on this Google Form. We will forward these names to the EDD through our legal advocates - and EDD has promised to forward these names to the wage auditor to start your process of converting to UI. https://docs.google.com/forms/...
Please know that this process is extremely frustrating. Drivers’ experience a lot of misinformation from EDD telephone operators. DON’T LISTEN TO THEM. Just ask to have a wage audit and to speak with an auditor. The auditors know the situation and know misclassified drivers are able to receive UI. Once you have a wage auditor, they know the situation, and if you can, get their direct phone line or email in case you have future questions.
We will continue to update this page as we find out more information.
Am I eligible for UI now that Prop 22 Passed?
Unemployment insurance (UI) is based on the 18 months of employee earnings previous to when you file your claim. So your current claim? Safe - it was based on your best quarter of 18 months previous to your claim - all worked
while we still had basic labor rights as drivers - and rights to UI.
Once Prop 22 comes into effect, the work you do will NOT be employment under CA law, so that work will not qualify you in the future for UI. BUT - you may qualify for UI based on work you did BEFORE the law came into effect. [Note: the law will go into effect sometime in the middle of December - depending on when the election results are finalized.]
If you are already on UI, the passage of Prop 22 has no impact on your current benefits because your current benefits are based on work you did in the past as an employee.
If you need to apply for UI for the first time, your work as an app-based driver anytime before mid-December will count toward UI. This chart shows the driving that will qualify you for UI if you file for the first time in 2021:
Qualifying Months (2020) Month You Apply (2021)
The yellow highlights show the TNC driver work that is qualifies someone for UI benefits, if you begin your claim in 2021. This chart is adapted from a form from the EDD Fact Sheet:
I'm on PUA - But Isn't UI Better? Can I get on UI?
Yes. If you're on PUA based on driving for Lyft or Uber before December 2020, you're actually SUPPOSED to be on UI, as you accrued those earnings under California law as an employee.
By getting onto UI, you will have greater benefits:
- Benefits extend up to 59 weeks, instead of being over on 12/31/20 like PUA.
- Benefits are based on GROSS earnings, not net, so your calculation for benefits will be greater.
Because of recent letters from EDD to PUA recipients saying they OWE money because their benefit was based on gross instead of net, we're recommending drivers use the instructions below to ask EDD to convert their benefits to UI because they were misclassified employees. The fact that we were even on PUA is because Lyft and Uber were not following law, and EDD mistakenly put us in PUA. We have also sent a letter to EDD asking them to quit sending these letters, and instead move misclassified drivers to UI automatically. It is our position that NO DRIVER should owe any money based on being put on PUA in error.
Drivers' best bet is to ask EDD to convert them to UI. You'll need to tell them you've been mistakenly been put on PUA because you are a misclassified employee as a Lyft/Uber driver - and follow our instructions below.
As we find out more, we will put that information here.
UI is Better than PUA for Rideshare Drivers and Other Misclassified Workers in CA: Here's Why:
App-based drivers and other gig workers are considered employees and absolutely qualify for Unemployment Insurance (UI) in California.
Because Lyft & Uber have defied the law and issue 1099’s for us, we are considered “misclassified” – the state and EDD see us as employees, but our bosses don’t.
That's crystal clear. But the CA State guidelines on UI vs PUA (the support for workers NOT eligible for UI) are confusing (https://www.labor.ca.gov/pandemic-unemployment-assistance-pua-program/). Are we self-employed/independent contractors eligible for PUA? Or are we misclassified employees?
Most drivers who have applied to UI already have been accepted to the UI program, but their benefits so far are $0. Why? Because the state wants to verify our wage data – and Uber and Lyft aren’t giving it to them.
So, understandably, there is a tremendous amount of confusion and frustration right now.
With guidance from Legal Aid at Work (https://legalaidatwork.org/) we stand firmly that regular UI is our best way to access benefits. Here are two charts, comparing the benefits.
The state promised quick action on PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) – with an on-line application available on 4/28, and people quickly receiving payments. For those of us applying for UI, the process of verifying our income has taken way too long. Some of us sit accepted to the program, but with $0 benefits because the state is working to verify our earnings with Uber/Lyft. We are working aggressively to push EDD to streamline state UI money to misclassified workers like ourselves.
Good news is, most drivers report eventually receiving their full UI benefits. But for everyone thus far, it has been a lengthy process, as the state has to find other ways to verify our income because Uber and Lyft are not following the law, and don't report our earnings. In addition, many of the frontline phone operators at EDD don't have the correct information about misclassified workers like ourselves, or the process.
The frustration about this is sky high with drivers. We should be paid NOW and we should be receiving our state benefit based on our past income and the additional $600 federal benefit.
So what should we do?
Our advice: file for regular UI – best instructions are below.
How to File for Unemployment
Gather your wage information: You’ll need to gather the information you will need for the process first. The UI process asks for your gross income month by month over 18 months. This can be official 1099s, or whatever tax information you receive through your drivers apps.
If you grossed more than $46,800 in the last year, you are eligible to receive the maximum UI benefits of $450/week, and you don’t have to break down all your earnings. Because UI is determined by your highest gross earnings in a quarter, you may be able to secure a higher benefit if you break down your earnings for the last 18 months by quarter.
Figuring out your gross by quarter can be a chore. If you receive 1099s, you may receive a 1099K and a 1099Misc. Your 1099K breaks down your monthly earnings so it’s easy to figure out your quarterly. If your 1099K’s show any quarter where you have earned more than $11,700, you’re good and will be eligible for the max without doing much more math. If it’s less than that, you’ll want to divide your 1099MISC by 4 and add that to your best quarter. Still not at $11,700 for a quarter? You may have to go deeper.
Some of us only receive tax info for the year via the app. If you need to break down your earnings on a monthly basis to show your quarterly gross earnings accurately and hopefully get a higher benefit, we’ve got specific information on how to do that within the Uber and the Lyft apps: Uber Process and Lyft Process.
If you have a lot of figuring to do, you may find these worksheets helpful: Uber Worksheet and Lyft Worksheet . Or if you have excel, you can download this form and it does some automatic figuring for you: excel quarterly earnings worksheet.
Save your tax documents, and your calculations for the quarterly totals, as you will need to share this data over and over again in this process.
Begin process on EDD Website: https://www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI_Online.htm
Our guide: We developed this guide which will walk you through the process of filing on the website. The EDD website is being updated on a daily basis, but the basics are here - though this may be slightly behind. We are updating it regularly to match their updates:
Step-by-Step Guide To File for Unemployment in California
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I apply as an employee?
- In California under AB5, yes, you file as an employee. EDD understands Lyft & Uber drivers to be employees, even though our employers have misclassified us as independent contractors
What do I put as Uber & Lyft's information?
- Uber Technologies Inc. 1-866-576-1039
1455 Market St #400 San Francisco, CA 94103
- Lyft Inc.- 1-855-865-9553
185 Berry St #5000 San Francisco, CA 94107
Will I need to apply for the federal aid too?
- An additional weekly $600 federal support is available to everyone who gets state UI until the end of July. Once the EDD verifies our income as drivers, we receive both UI and the $600. It's still taking too long for EDD to verify our income, but we're fighting to push for a quicker, more streamlined process. (https://www.sfexaminer.com/news/uber-and-lyft-drivers-demand-unemployment-benefits/)
- In terms of PUA, the state is figuring out a process right now so contractors and self-employed workers can access those federal benefits. We are not recommending drivers apply for PUA as under AB5 we are eligible for regular UI as misclassified workers – and will be better protected that way. However, workers have been able to request PUA since 4/28.
Can I file for UI as an immigrant?
- Anyone with a work permit or green card or a citizen can apply for UI. Undocumented drivers should not apply.
- Because it is considered an earned benefit, it does not fall under the “public charge” category, and will not count against future immigration status for documented workers.
- A new program for undocumented workers in California called the Direct Disaster Assistance program is designed for undocumented people. To access that program, click this link:
What is my UI award based on?
- You weekly state benefit will be between $40 and $450 per week, and is 50% of your weekly pay, up to $900/week.
- The weekly benefit amount will be based on your highest quarter of the base period, which is a four quarter long period. $11700 earnings in a quarter or more will give you the max.
- In addition to the state benefit, $600/week federal benefit will be added to regular UI benefits until the end of July.
I filed several weeks ago, but don’t have benefits yet. When will the benefits start?
- The state has promised to give benefits for all weeks we've applied for, back to February 1. So once we certify, those benefits will come to you retroactively. You’ll need to make sure you are filling in the bi-weekly certifications every week – see below.
I was certified, but my benefit is $0. How do I fix that?
If you receive a $0 benefit, this is probably because Lyft and Uber ignore the law that requires them to report driver earnings to the state. You'll have to go through a process with EDD to verify your earnings.
If your benefit was smaller than it should be - and not based on ALL your lost earnings, this process will help you as well.
Right now there are 2 things you have to do to - on the web, and in the mail:
(1) File a correction via the EDD Website:
a) Log onto UI Online at uio.edd.ca.gov, click the UI Online button, and then click the “Contact Us” tab on the right side of the webpage.
b) Select “Claim Questions” under the Question Category dropdown menu. Then select “Missing Wages from Claims” from the Question Topic dropdown menu.
c) Briefly state why EDD does not have your wage information. If you drive for Uber or Lyft, you can write the following (filling in the appropriate information):
I am an employee driver of _____. I was misclassified by the company(ies) as an independent contractor, and my notice of award does not reflect the wages I earned while working for ______. I am sending proof of my earning via tax information via US mail. Please let me know if I can get it to you via online.
According to the 1099-K I received from ______, I earned $XX,XXX between January and March, earned $XX,XXX between April and June, earned $XX,XXX between July and September, and earned $XX,XXX between October and December. According to the 1099-K for 2018, I earned $XX,XXX between October and December 2018. According to my 1099-MISC, I additionally earned $X,XXX in 2019, and $X,XXX in 2018.
[Repeat that for every company that failed to report your earnings to the state.]
If you did not receive a 1099-MISC or a 1099K, use the tax info provided by the company as outlined in our Step-By-Step UI Guide, above. This is common for a part-time driver.
You can also watch this video to navigate you through this process at https://youtu.be/2W7e3P2lrO8.
(2) File a correction via US Post Mail:
When you receive your certification letter, mail it back with these corrections and additions:
- Cross out the zeros and write in the appropriate amounts to the address listed on the upper left-hand corner of the Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award. See an example of this below.
- Attach 1099s or other evidence of wages in each of your claims.
- Keep copies of everything you send in.
Once You've Applied, Certify Bi-Weekly!
You will start getting weekly correspondence from the EDD, asking questions about your work. Even if they have not awarded you a weekly benefit yet you must respond.
Continue to certify while they are still processing your claim. You can certify in various ways:
- Certify online at uio.edd.ca.gov,
- Certify on mobile at uiom.edd.ca.gov, or
- Certify by phone at U1-866-333-4606 and select Option 2.
Here are our recommendations for filling out the questionnaire based on advice from Legal Aid at Work.
Answer all questions and honestly - and here are a few tips:
- Question 2 is confusing: "Was there any reason (other than sickness or injury) that you could not have accepted full-time work each workday?” Answer NO if you could have accepted work, even if you could not find work because of the pandemic.
- Question 4 can confuse people too: “Did you refuse any work?” You can answer NO even if you did not log into Uber or Lyft.
- It is always important to be available to work and not to refuse work while receiving unemployment insurance benefits.