California State Benefits
State Disability Insurance California has waived the one week waiting period for claims under the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program. This waiver applies only to COVID-19-related claims, not to other claims. SDI benefits are available in the event of a self-quarantine but only for medically certified quarantines. Telehealth and virtual visits are acceptable for physical examination, but medical certifications are still required. Benefits are 60%-70% of an employee's wages (depending on income) up to a maximum of $1,300 per week. Paid Family Leave California has also waived the one week waiting period for COVID-19 related claims under the Paid Family Leave (PFL) program. This waiver applies only to COVID-19-related claims, not to other claims. If an employee is unable to work because they need to care for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19, benefits are provided up to six weeks. This extends to eight weeks starting July 1, 2020. Benefits are 60%-70% of an employee's wages (depending on income) to a maximum of $1,300 per week. Coordination and Taxation Some complicating issues arise in looking at the possibility of integrating California SDI and PFL benefits with the new COVID-19 sick time and COVID-19 paid family leave. It is also important to remember that benefits received under SDI are income tax-free (since they are paid by employee after-tax contributions). PFL benefits are subject to federal income taxes but exempt from California income taxes. There remain several critical, but unanswered questions:
• Which should an employee apply for first, especially given the waiting period waiver under the California benefit plans?
Critical questions about sick and paid leave integration
• Can benefits be coordinated? Is it possible to have a 60% PFL benefit and “fill in” the remainder of income with the 66.67% benefit under the COVID-19 paid family leave? What about the reverse? • Can an employee extend his or her 80 hours of COVID-19 sick leave to longer than 10 days while integrating it with partial wage replacement under SDI? • Can an employer request/require employees to apply for SDI or PFL benefits prior to making COVID-19 sick time or paid family leave payments? • Does the prohibition on requiring other sick time/leave time to be used prior to COVID-19 sick or leave time extend to state statutory benefits too?
California Unemployment Benefits California has waived the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits. This waiver applies only to individuals who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19-related termination and not to other unemployment claims.
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