Pandemic assistance available during troubling times


COVID-19 changed many people’s lives this year. California’s education system was affected, causing many colleges and schools to shut down. Our state’s workforce went through an economic crash as millions of workers lost their jobs, and many people experienced business closures and mass layoffs.

According to the website, since July, the current unemployment rate in California is 13.3%. In the Coachella Valley and throughout the Riverside county, there’re been more business and job loss. The Press-EnterPrise reports that, “Riverside County lost more than 100,000 jobs at the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the prospects of an economic rebound are grim if the virus isn’t controlled.”

The reality is, everyone in some way has been affected by the pandemic. Our county and the rest of California was, but many Californians don’t know where to seek help. Government aid is available for everyone who has been affected in these dark times.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) took affect in California on March 29, 2020. However, it wasn’t until later in April that self-employment would be able to claim any benefits. PUA is a disaster relief aid program from the federal CARE acts provisions. The mission is to help unemployed Californians who are not usually eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.¬†According to, this includes business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors and those with a limited work history who are out of business or have significantly reduced their services due to the pandemic shutdown.

This program includes up to 46 weeks of benefits from Feb. 2, 2020, through Dec. 26, 2020, depending on when you were directly affected by COVID-19. PUA launched with up to 39 weeks of benefits, and an extra seven weeks was recently added.

Although regulations change on a day to day basis, each state has its own rules on how to lift pandemic restrictions. However, the programs are still here, and they will continue to be in the state until at least December of 2020. the best part is that this is all public domain. People can inform themselves and see if they are eligible for any of the programs that exist.

Jose Esparza is a member of the Coachella Valley community who educates and helps people apply for such programs. As he puts it, “The first step in the process is learning about it. The material is out there, take a day or a week to read and understand it.” “The biggest problem is people are not informed on how to apply for government aid in a disaster. There is a massive lack of information to our public that has not been addressed properly,” says self-employed Alex Cataldo, a Palm Springs resident under PUA. Her cleaning business was affected back in March, and did not know about the aid till weeks later in April. “If it was not for my son-in-law who informed I could receive aid, I do not know where I would be right now.”

On the website under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, it shows how to file a claim, eligibility and how the program works. A local resident from Cathedral City, Ruben Martinez, retired and part-time handyman, has worked for 45 years.¬†Martinez has never asked for unemployment or any beneficial benefits. When COVID -19 took effect, he applied for the assistance. Martinez says, “It was a positive experience. I have never received unemployment, disability benefits or have asked for help. The PUA assistance has both economically and emotionally helped because I am not that stressed out as before. Being retired and depending on my handyman job, which has been drastically cut down due to this pandemic, receiving PUA has helped drastically supplement the lost income and relieve monetary stress. Its been a major to relief for my family and me. I am grateful for this help.”

Even students like Melissa Espinoza, junior at Cal-State Fullerton, qualify. She says, “It was unexpected and helpful. I have never asked for any government help or any financial aid. But with the pandemic assistance relief, I was able to pay for my entire school tuition, and I have taken care of other bills. I am grateful that we have this kind of help, and I hope people can get this kind of help. I hope the state continues to help us in these challenging times.”

Maya Martinez, a housekeeper in the Coachella Valley, says, “The pandemic assistance has helped me a lot. The houses I clean are for seniors, and they were scared of catching the virus, so my business decreased since March. Not many wanted me to go clean their homes anymore. I was worried about my bills, and applying for PUA has helped me catch up on my bills. I feel more relaxed knowing I have this help, and I do not feel as stressed as I used to be.”

From Desert Hot Springs, Lorena Torres, a professional hairstylist, says, “All the salons in DHS are completely closed, and most of us depend on commission. I was super stressed, trying to figure out how to pay my rent, my car payment was overdue and my bills were a mess. I was trying to figure out how to get by with my family. I have two children, and I am a single mother, so you can imagine how stressed I was. When I applied for the assistance and received my money, it helped me clear my bills, I was able to pay my rent and my car, and most importantly, provide for my children. This aid has helped my family and me tremendously, and I am super grateful.”

Alexis Espinoza, a student at Mayfield College, lost his job during the first week of the shutdown. He says, “The assistance has helped. I got laid off from my job back in March due to COVID, and I became very worried about how I was going to pay my bills, buy groceries and to make ends meet. Once I applied and got my benefits, I could finally breathe. The pandemic assistance helped me catch with my bills, I am not as worried as I was when I was laid off, and I could focus much better with my school than worrying about bills.”

If you need help and want to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), go to