PUA Legal Clinic for the Self-Employed: The Results

As part of the federal CARES Act for COVID-19 relief, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was established to help business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors, and others with a limited work history who may not be eligible for other forms of unemployment insurance.

However, as with many emergency relief programs, applying for and receiving assistance through PUA has been hard for many independents who have limited experience navigating government requirements, or whose English proficiency level may be a barrier to access.

Stock photo of call center worker

For this reason, CAMEO partnered with Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center and Legal Aid At Work, with support from the Arthur and Charlotte Zitrin Foundation, to set up a legal clinic for self-employed workers in California. The clinic’s mission was to help them determine if they were eligible for PUA and guide them through the application process.

The Clinic

Our PUA legal clinic for the self-employed ran from May 27 to September 10, 2020. To promote the program, we launched an outreach campaign using social media (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), email marketing, and paid advertising (Google and Facebook Ads). Across all these channels, we were able to reach almost 150,000 people, of which more than 7,500 expressed interest in the clinic.

Additionally, we had 18 nonprofit partners participating in outreach to spread the word about the program. These partners sent emails, posted on social media, and directed their own small business clients to the program, reaching an audience of more than 50,000 subscribers and followers. We’d like to extend a huge thanks to:

  • Alliance for Community Development
  • ASIAN, Inc.
  • Bethel LA CDC
  • California Financial Development Corporation
  • Centro Community Partners
  • City of Oakland
  • Digital Track for Solano Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Fairfield Suisun Chamber
  • El Pajaro CDC
  • Greenlining Institute
  • Indian Dispute Resolution Services
  • La Cocina
  • Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights
  • Main Street Launch
  • National Latina Business Women Association – Inland Empire
  • Omniworks
  • Santa Cruz SBDC
  • USC Office of Civic Engagement
  • Working Solutions

Of the small business owners and self-employed workers reached through these joint outreach efforts, the clinic received a total of 1,431 appointment requests and made a total of 910 appointments. A total of 216 applications were completed, and the clinic’s counselors were able to answer questions for 435 applicants.

The Results

After the clinic ended, CAMEO and Legal Aid At Work conducted surveys with applicants to get their feedback about the clinic and the outcome of their applications. Of 92 surveyed applicants:

  • 60 (65%) were approved to receive benefits
  • 6 (7%) were denied
  • 26 (28%) were still pending

One applicant who completed our survey had this to say about the clinic:

Thank you so much! I recommended this service to other self employed friends. Very helpful and much needed during this crisis.

And one of our outreach partners, Working Solutions, also gave us their feedback:

One client was so pleased with the assistance he received through the PUA Legal Clinic that he called to let us know that he had referred his daughter to the clinic as well!