Uber/Lyft & EDD: Filing for Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits As a Rideshare Driver in California
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.