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Posted May 1, 2020

Dear Refs,

I know Tuesday is a day many of you have been looking forward to since the pandemic started.  In an unprecedented display of support, California is now extending unemployment benefits to independent contractors and the self-employed, making you likewise eligible for the federal unemployment bonus of $600 per week in addition to whatever figure EDD computes via its traditional program. 

Not wanting to blitz the system and risk a crash to the server, I waited until last night to fill out my form.  It took me all of 15 minutes to read, comb through, and complete.  Most of you should have no problems with it.  That said, I wanted to address a few elements of it that may cause some confusion:

Starting on Step 2, when it asks you "Did you work for any employer in the last 18 months?"

If you are filing for benefits on the basis of being a full-time referee, you select, "NO."  

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I want to reiterate.  As a grassroots referee, you have NO EMPLOYER.  More accurately, you are your OWN employer.  You are SELF-EMPLOYED.  You do not receive "wages."  You do not receive a W-2.  You accept assignments at your discretion and operate independently from leagues, tournaments, and even officiating groups.  Please do not list me.  Do not list your other assignors.  We may be your agents, representatives, and dispatchers, but we are not your employers.

On Step 4, when it asks you for your "Work Type," you can write in "Referee" and then select it from the corresponding list. 


If you are a fellow assignor, you can also select "Human Resources Representative" or "Human Resources Systems Manager" because in accordance to that position's description, it matches our job function very well.

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After I finished selecting my work types, my page ended up looking like this:

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Finally, on Step 4, when it asks you for Additional Information, please select COVID-19 as the recent disaster responsible for your loss of work.


I entered March 12th as the first date our work was interrupted.  It represents the day the NBA season got paused and I announced the suspension of the LA Elite March Showdown Tournament.  We haven't worked a game since. 

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Now as much as it pains me to say this, for the sake of simplicity, when it asks you whether you are a member of a "union" or "non-union trade association," just put no.   There is no need to open up that can of worms with the government just yet.  Of course I believe we are a bonafide union, but I just don't want to deal with any phone calls about classification, membership, etc. right now.


If you have already filed your claim and believe you messed up, unfortunately I don't see any option to go back and amend it.  I'll take the blame for that because perhaps I should have put this guide together earlier.  Nevertheless I do not think you should worry.  Some of these questions have multiple-choice answers wherein more than one is legitimately valid.  As long as your application demonstrates good faith honesty to the best of your abilities, you have nothing to fear. 


Finally, a lot of you have been asking me whether you qualify for any money if you still have your regular job, despite losing the revenue from your typical course of games.  That is actually a very difficult question to answer.  It really depends on the percentage of your annual income that officiating provides.

If officiating makes up the majority of your income, then complete the application as outlined above.  See this message directly from the EDD website: 

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Remember that when you fill out your unemployment application, you need to approach it in your role as a referee ONLY.  And as an independent referee, your employer is always YOURSELF.

To paraphrase one of the actual questions:  "Are you willing to come back to work for your employer once conditions improve?"  The answer should be "YES."

Hypothetically, if COVID-19 was not a threat and we had available games, you would be willing to work for yourself and offer to officiate them.


Also remember that when the EDD drafted these questions, they weren't really thinking about referees. They had a rank-and-file self-employed business person in mind.  Therefore, some of these questions are hard to understand in the context of officiating.  You will just have to try your best.  Feel free to reach out to us or your high school association or collegiate conference leadership if you have any questions.  It is about time that some of them offer some help to their constituents during these difficult times.


Lastly, remember that the Ref Union Cares loan program is still here for you if you need it.  I haven't mentioned it in a while; we haven't had a contribution in a while, but we are still accepting them to shore up our position heading into May and June.  The next two months will be very tough economically.  I estimate that once we factor all of the self-employed from California, Nevada, and Illinois into the data, we will easily reach 40M unemployed as a country.


Tighten your belts, guys, and try to have a wonderful weekend.  And for those of you viewing this page via the link from Referee Magazine, I hope you browse the rest of our site and learn more about us.  Guides like this are just one of the things we try to do for our members.  What seperates us is that we care about our crews even at times when there are no games to work.  If you feel abandoned by your association or if your other assignor has gone off the grid since the work stoppage, you can always turn to us and we are here for you.

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