The employment department reported that about 25.4 million Californians have applied for unemployment benefits since March 2020. (Melanie Nguyen / Daily Titan)

Additional federal unemployment funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, ended in September 2021, and left millions of Californians without unemployment benefits, according to the Employment Development Department.

Different types of federal unemployment benefits ended on Sept. 4 in California, including the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Additional Compensation and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was eligible to certify benefits for weeks proceeding this date until Oct. 6, 2021. The federal law does not allow Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits to be paid for weeks of unemployment after Sept. 4, even if there is a remaining balance on a claim, according to the employment department.

Federal-State Extension Duration benefits ended on Sept. 11, 2021, but were still eligible to certify for weeks before this date, including conditional payments, according to the employment department.

The employment department reported that about 25.4 million Californians have applied for unemployment benefits since March 2020. Many people applied for unemployment as businesses reduced employees or hours.

Roughly 2.2 million claims will expire with the end of federal benefits. However, as California businesses begin to reopen, some struggle to hire more people.

Pedro Amaral, an associate professor in macroeconomics, said that it is uncertain how long the effects of the pandemic will last as the economy is readapting, which influences a skill mismatch.

“In California, in general, we have an economy that’s much more devoted to services than the national average. And in our student population, in particular, that’s even more so the majority of the people work retail in services. I think, all the evidence that I’ve seen, is that the people that are working in these jobs are going to be disproportionately disadvantaged,” Amaral said.

Shirin Sotoud, a third-year accounting major, said that she lost her job as a junior accountant and she has struggled to find a job related to her major. Sotoud said she used unemployment benefits to pay for rent, food, books and other school supplies.

“The EDD was a little support and I can focus on my education, not worry about the money for some time, a short time. But anyway, I have to go back to working and prove myself,” Sotoud said.

Similarly, Gabriela Flores, a third-year mathematics major, said she could not find a job because she does not have prior work experience and was overlooked for positions. Flores said opportunities are withheld from her and she wishes she had started working earlier.

The unemployment rate in California has significantly decreased. In August 2020, it was about 12.3% and in August 2021, this rate improved to 7.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Students in the workforce and college at the same time have various priorities to consider.

Maria Casanova, a labor economist and assistant professor, said “I can also imagine that the effects of working at the same time as your studies is going to be different for students who are choosing jobs just to improve their job prospects in the future rather than for students who need to support their families and they don’t have an alternative source of income.”

Some students need this income to support their families and lifestyles. Lam Nguyen, a third-year business major, said she and her parents had to apply for unemployment benefits in order to get through the pandemic.

“No matter how much the pressure is with all the school and all the work, I still have to go to work in order to have some income to help my mom and dad, and for myself to pay all the bills,” Nguyen said.

Some students, like Brenda Heredia, a fifth-year business marketing and Spanish double major, found creative ways to generate additional income. Heredia started her own company called Quherencia, while working at the Programming Activity Lead at the Latinx Community Resource Center,

“During the pandemic, I did see a lot of small businesses being born, and I think it has to do with people trying to find financial alternatives as many were losing their jobs, which in my case, although I did not lose my job, it was still somewhat a survival mechanism both mentally and financially speaking,” Heredia said.

Sylvie Furman, a fourth-year music education major, said she faced career changes based on her priorities and health concerns with COVID-19.

“I think like working and going to school at the same time is, always has been, and still is really difficult. So, I feel like there shouldn’t be any shame to not do those things at the same time,” Furman said.

Others found their work to be rewarding during the pandemic. Jillianne Fernando, a fourth-year public health major, is a patient care technician at Mission Hospital with the goal of being a nurse practitioner. Fernando said that working was a chilling and emotional strain, but the best feeling in the world is when a patient is grateful when they recover.

“It’s just that gratuity afterwards, you know the way that you cared for a patient really impacted their overall patient experience; it just makes the whole workload and it just lifts the weight out of your chest,” Fernando said.

With the major change in unemployment benefits, the employment department offers resources to help support Californians with basic needs.

For the Cal State Fullerton community, there are opportunities on campus and surrounding areas that hire students. The Associated Student Inc. and the CSUF Career Center offer opportunities on their website, as well as a variety of job postings around campus to support students seeking jobs during these uncertain times.

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