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Audit Holds Up Federal Money For Gig Workers In Need Of Relief – CBS Chicago

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California unemployment claims remain high at 230,000; claims from gig workers fall 53% in coronavirus era

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New official figures on new claims for unemployment benefits in California dipped slightly last week but remained at the high pandemic level. Meanwhile, applications for special help for the self-employed and gig workers plummeted 53% last week, even ahead of new rules to stem a surge in suspected fraud.

New applications for conventional unemployment insurance were 230,225 last week, down 13,000 from 243,404 the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

New claims have been 200,000–300,000 since late May, following a big spike just after the state’s shelter orders for the coronavirus went into place in mid-March. Weekly claims were 30,000–50,000 before the virus.

Californians last week made up 29% of the 790,000 new claims nationwide, up from 28% of 866,000 applications the week before.

Residents receiving traditional unemployment benefits totaled 2.76 million in the most recent tally, for the week ending Sept. 5, down 256,000 from 3.01 million the week before.

Californians accounted for 22% of the 12.3 million Americans receiving benefits as of Sept. 5, roughly the same proportion as the in the week before, according to the latest figures available on recipients.

For the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits for the self-employed and gig workers, put into place in California in late April from the federal CARES Act, new claims totaled 204,700 in the Golden State last week, down by 236,000 from nearly 441,000 the week before.

On Sept. 11, the California Employment Development Department said it will require more proof before payments are made on the new type of benefits, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The department will no longer automatically backdate claims for the new benefits to the date of claimed work loss and limit multiple claims at the same address.

It’s one of the reforms Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he’s trying to make to the state’s employment safety net, which at one point had a backlog of 1 million claims and was not answering a number of calls.

The roll of Californians getting the new benefits dropped by almost 592,000 the week ending Aug. 29, the latest data available, to 6.39 million, down from 6.98 million the week before. Recipients of these benefits in the state accounted for 44% of the 14.5 million getting them nationwide, down from almost 48% of 14.6 million the week before.

The hardships of the pandemic economy also came just three months after a new California law, Assembly Bill 5, took effect, reclassifying many independent contractors as employees. However, categories of workers have been excluded from that law by legislation and court orders in the months since.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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Bringing the Gig Economy to Legal Practices

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Harnessing the power of the gig economy in the legal sector offers a more diverse group of skilled workers an added level of flexibility and accessibility


Rising as a well-deserved pillar in our nation’s economy, the gig workforce continues to make significant contributions to the US job market and GDP. Last year, the gig economy contributed close to 5%, or $1 trillion to the U.S. GDP. This year, the Bureau of Labor estimates 42% of Americans as gig workers, a 6% increase over last year. Given these facts, the gig economy can no longer be seen as a unique niche market, but a legitimate player with valuable contributions. 

As gig roles become increasingly popular, the global pandemic and resulting economic crisis have presented a new opportunity for businesses and professionals to tap into the gig economy as a way to sustain their livelihood. The opportunities and benefits of gig work are particularly relevant as industries navigate the current volatile business climate.

The legal gig economy, along with progressive technology, has allowed legal professionals a means to pivot, allowing them to maintain operations, and ensure seamless continuity for their clients during uncertain times. Innovative companies in the industry are already making the most of these opportunities, paving the way for additional legal professionals to access skilled work and deliver services their clients demand.

History of the Gig Economy 

Understanding of the history of the gig economy through the lens of labor regulations is a critical step for legal professionals who are considering starting a gig role or partnering with gig specialists.

On a national scale, labor regulations differ across states and as a result, classify contracted professionals differently. For example, a 2018 landmark case in California (Dynamex Operations West, Inc. vs. The Superior Court of Los Angeles) had a significant impact on the future of the gig economy in the state. The unanimous ruling resulted in the adoption of the new ABC test, offering more stringent guidelines than its predecessor. 

Building on this ruling, California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), popularly known as the “gig worker bill,” expands on this case. AB5 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2019. AB5 requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees, with some exceptions. Together, the ABC test and AB5 put the burden of proof on employers to ensure fair labor practices in the state. New legislation and legal precedents such as these have tremendous implications for how gig professionals can access work, especially while the U.S. employment market navigates turbulence.

Notable players in the gig economy – Lyft and Uber, are advocating for ride-sharing professionals and continue to heavily impact the future of the gig workforce. For example, the rideshare leaders announced they would halt operations in California unless the courts intervened on the AB5 verdict. In August 2020, the courts temporarily responded, preventing thousands of professionals from immediately losing their primary source of income. However, that preliminary injunction only lasts until voters decide their fate with Proposition 22 in November.

Impact of Gig Legislation on the Legal Industry 

As Uber and Lyft continue to appeal the initial ruling, some gig professions were successful in winning exemptions to AB5, given they met certain criteria. These exemption standards include the ability for contractors to negotiate their own rates, have direct communication with customers, and earn at least twice the minimum wage. These exemptions did include attorneys, but left process servers in the gray area. Meaning, process servers have a current lack of clarity around whether they can maintain contractor classification in CA.

Driver with an Apple Watch; image by Luca Bravo, via Unsplash.com.
Driver with an Apple Watch; image by Luca Bravo, via Unsplash.com.

Process service is a profession where a limited, registered workforce supports courts to ensure proper notice of legal proceedings. It’s common for professional process servers to accept gig work assignments from several sources. The process server is traditionally a freelancer looking to optimize their earning potential inside their desired weekly hours by accepting and fulfilling work through their preferred driving route. For this profession to be attractive, the process server must be able to accept and fulfill work from multiple sources – there just isn’t enough controlled market share to justify limiting or being denied the ability to work for multiple job originators. It’s a logistics business with a uniquely professional delivery agent.

New Opportunities for the Legal Field

The rise of the legal gig economy is being pioneered by agile technology companies that have harnessed SaaS platforms to offer industry-specific gig roles. Currently, the legal procedures best suited for the gig economy include alternative service, appearance counsel, e-filing, messenger service, and service of process. 

Process servers have driven the recent surge in the legal gig economy thanks to the prominence of cloud-based legal platforms that make it convenient for these professionals to deliver services anywhere around the world. For example, a request for service can be sent to a process server in practically every location, with real-time updates on the status and completion of the serve. The process server, with the use of technology, can offer immediate proof of service that will stand up in any court of law. Additionally, expanded use of technology by the courts has allowed for increased use of e-filing as a legal service, offering greater speed and accuracy in accessing the judicial system. 

In addition to process servers, appearance attorneys are well-suited to thrive in the gig economy. These legal practitioners represent large companies, banks and other law firms who need a lawyer to appear in court for them. The arrangement fosters a relationship founded on necessity and professionalism. In many cases, companies require representation in multiple jurisdictions which presents complications in the standard single-attorney representation model. 

Overall, the increased use of gig workers in the legal industry is improving access to the legal system, while minimizing costs and burden for all parties involved.

Advancing Gig Work for the Legal Sector

Harnessing the power of the gig economy in the legal sector offers a more diverse group of skilled workers an added level of flexibility and accessibility. Professionals in older generations looking to supplement retirement income, current lawyers looking to stay active in their legal careers on a part-time basis, or younger professionals looking to start their own legal service business, all find technology one of the greatest resources in forming partnerships with gig economy companies. 

Equipped with new and emerging tools, legal professionals of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels will be well-positioned to make the most of what the gig economy offers. As businesses continue to adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic, the legal industry is advancing automation technologies aimed at improving access and opportunity to the judicial system. This, along with the repositioning of legal professionals to remote and virtual operations will further solidify the gig workforce as a significant contributor to the U.S. economy.

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Gig Workers Depend On New Unemployment Program But Fear It’ll End Soon : NPR

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Millions of gig workers have come to depend on a government lifeline that’s set to expire at the end of the year. Above, a man wearing a face mask walks past a sign saying “now hiring” on May 14 in Arlington, Va.

Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images


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Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Millions of gig workers have come to depend on a government lifeline that’s set to expire at the end of the year. Above, a man wearing a face mask walks past a sign saying “now hiring” on May 14 in Arlington, Va.

Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 8:35 a.m. ET

Kris Snyder didn’t set out to be a professional musician. She began her working life as a corporate trainer for a big retail company. But after churning through seven managers in five years, she got fed up. She gave up a regular paycheck and corporate benefits and started looking for music gigs.

“Weddings, funerals, parties — that sort of thing,” says Snyder, a fourth-generation harpist.

She supplemented her performing income by teaching the harp to about two dozen students at her home in Pennsylvania. She also became a kind of musical therapist, with regular appointments at a nursing home and a hospice.

“It just became a calling,” Snyder says. “It fed my heart.”

The work also helped feed her family, until the coronavirus pandemic hit this spring and the music abruptly stopped. Snyder became one of millions of people who were suddenly out of work but not eligible for standard unemployment insurance.

“It was horrible,” Snyder recalls. “I had absolutely no income coming in. My husband, who’s a mechanic, he was on a rolling furlough. And I was terrified of losing our home.”

In March, Congress quickly stitched together a new safety net program, modeled on the kind of help the government usually provides after a natural disaster.

“It’s designed not just to help gig economy workers or the self-employed,” says former Treasury Department official Ernie Tedeschi. “It’s also designed to help people who had spotty work history that wouldn’t have qualified for regular unemployment insurance.”

That turns out to be a lot of people. According to the Labor Department’s latest tally, more than 14 million people were collecting benefits under the new program at the end of August. That’s more than were collecting regular unemployment benefits.

“Number one, that tells me that too few people qualify for regular unemployment insurance,” says Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for workers. “We actually probably do need a system that’s responsive to the changing nature of the workforce.”

Evermore cautions that the Labor Department figure probably overstates the number of people getting help from the new program. There have been persistent reporting problems. And because the program requires less documentation than regular unemployment insurance, it has been a target for fraud.

“There’s this international fraud ring that has been attacking unemployment insurance systems,” Evermore says. “They’ve just systemically been going state by state. Once the state system figures out how to identify them and kick them out, they move on to another state.”

Tedeschi, who’s now with the investment research firm Evercore ISI, estimates that the real number of people receiving benefits from the program is between 6 million and 10 million. That’s still a lot of people who would have gotten nothing from the traditional unemployment system.

“When this crisis is over, we need to take a good, hard look at how regular state unemployment insurance is structured and at the very least update it for the realities of a workforce that is substantially gig economy and self-employed,” Tedeschi says.

Gig workers, like those who lost jobs during the pandemic, have already seen their benefits reduced. At the end of July, Snyder went from receiving $775 a week to just $175.

What’s more, unless Congress acts to extend it, this big new program is set to expire altogether at the end of this year.

“What’s going to happen this winter?” Snyder wonders. “I feel like a squirrel burying nuts. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back to work the way I used to work, if I’ll ever be able to go back to the way I used to work.”

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