Your California Unemployment Benefits Eligibility

The state agency in charge of administering unemployment insurance (UI) claims for California residents is the Employment Development Department (EDD).  It provides financial benefits for workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who are ready, willing and able to actively seek work.  

The EDD is entirely financed by employers in the state.  No deductions are made from workers’ wages to finance California's unemployment insurance program.

To meet California unemployment qualifications for benefits, when a worker loses their job, they must register with EDD as the first step in becoming eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.  Continuing California unemployment claims are monitored to ensure claimants are complying with criteria set by the state.  Those who do not meet compliance standards, or who attempt to defraud EDD can be subject to administrative and criminal penalties.  

How unemployment works in California

Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in California.

  1. Before you apply, make sure you meet all benefit requirements.  You must meet all requirements to be eligible to collect unemployment insurance in California.  This includes earning at least $1,300 in one quarter of your Base Period year, continuing to look for full-time work, remaining in good standing if you are a union member, being ready, willing and able to accept full-time work, and other requirements.
  2. If you meet all benefit requirements, then you can apply for unemployment insurance.   To submit an California unemployment application for UI benefits you will need to visit the EDD website and click on the link that says “File for Unemployment.”
  3. Determine the amount and duration of your benefit.   After you apply, you will receive a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award.  This gives you information about when your claim begins and ends, what your maximum benefit amount will be, what your weekly benefit amount will be and what your highest quarterly earnings are.
  4. Understand how your unemployment benefit amount is determined.  To calculate the weekly California unemployment compensation you are entitled to, the state uses one of two possible base periods.  Base periods are divided into calendar quarters and the quarter you were paid the highest amount of wages determines your weekly benefit amount.  To see the amount you will be entitled to receive you can review the EDD  Unemployment Insurance Benefit Table. 
  5. Know how and when you will be paid.  You will be mailed a debit card when your claim is first processed and all future benefit payments will be uploaded and processed directly on to your card, giving you immediate access to your funds. You may elect to have funds directly deposited from your debit card to a bank account of your choice. You must initiate this transaction through Bank of America.
  6. Conduct an ongoing job search.  You are required to look for full-time work while drawing benefits.  You are expected to find and apply to appropriate job openings on a weekly basis and will be asked to report these activities to EDD.  As part of your work search, you should also register with EDD Workforce Services, CalJOBS.
  7. You can file an appeal if you are denied benefits.  If you are denied benefits, you can file an appeal with EDD in writing, stating the reasons why you disagree with the decision. You have 20 calendar days from the date of the decision to file your appeal.

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Unemployment Terms you should know

  1. UI – Unemployment Insurance.  This is the actual name of the benefit you will receive when you apply for California unemployment benefits
  2. EDD – Employment Development Department.  This is the state agency that administers unemployment insurance benefits. This California unemployment department will manage your application and help you through the process.
  3. Claim Beginning Date - Your claim begins on the Sunday of the week that you file your California unemployment weekly claims, not on the date that you became unemployed.
  4. Claim Ending Date – Your California unemployment insurance benefit will end 52 weeks after your claim beginning date.  A new claim must be filed if you are still unemployed or partially unemployed at the end of this period.
  5. Weekly Benefit Amount – This is the amount you receive each week if you meet all eligibility requirements.  If you work part-time, your California unemployment weekly claim amount will be reduced.  Your wages are subtracted from your weekly benefit amount.
  6. Maximum Benefit Amount – This is the maximum amount of money you can receive under your unemployment insurance claim.  It is 26 times the weekly benefit amount or about one-half of the total base period wages, whichever is less.
  7. Base Period/Base Period Wages  Your base period is a 12-month timeframe and the total amount of earnings reported by your employer during that time are your base period wages.  The amount of your UI benefit is calculated from the amount of wages earned during your base period.  

What California unemployment requirements must I meet to recieve benefits?

To be eligible to receive UI benefits, you must meet the following California unemployment eligibility requirements:

You must make a reasonable effort to find suitable full-time work.  To substantiate your California unemployment claim, you should keep a record of your work search dates, contacts and other pertinent efforts to validate your claim.  As part of your work search, you should register with EDD Workforce Services, CalJOBS.

If you find part-time work, you must still continue to look for full-time work to remain eligible to receive UI benefits.

If you are part of a union, you are required to follow your union’s requirements for registering as out of work, and you must continue your own efforts to try and find full-time work.  You must also remain in good standing with your union so you can be dispatched when work is available.

If you live outside of California or if you move outside of the state while collecting UI benefits, you must register with your new home state’s workforce agency and follow that state’s requirements for conducting a job search.  If you do not contact and register with your new state’s workforce agency immediately, your benefits could be delayed or lost.  

You must have earned at least $1,300 in one-quarter of your base period, or at least $900 in your highest quarter and total base period earnings of 1.25 times your high quarter earnings. If you do not have enough earnings to establish a claim, then you will be denied benefits.

Wages that have already been used to determine your California unemployment amount of UI benefits to be paid on a claim cannot be used again to file another claim.

You will be required to serve a one week unpaid waiting period.  This is usually the first week that you file a California unemployment claim.  To serve the waiting period and thus be eligible for benefits in following weeks, you can certify for benefits by using EDD Web-Cert, EDD Tele-Cert or submit a paper based Continued Claim Form #DE4581CTO.  

You must continue to certify that you are eligible to receive benefits at regular intervals while you are unemployed.  In addition to the methods mentioned above, you can also access the EDD website or call the self-service number at 1-866-333-4606.  If you do not certify for benefits in a timely manner, your benefits may be delayed.  If you do not certify for benefits within 14 days after your last payment date, you may lose your benefits.

Issues that may impact your unemployment claim in California

  • You quit or you were fired from your job.  To qualify, you must have lost your job through no fault of your own.
  • You do not have childcare or transportation.  This limits your availability and could impact your ability to collect benefits.
  • You were too sick or injured to look for work.  If you are not well enough to conduct a job search, you must report the number of days you could not work.  Your benefits will be reduced by 1/7th for each day you cannot work.
  • Other reasons why you could not accept full-time work.  To collect benefits, you must be ready and able to work in a job that matches your occupational skills.  If you have personal affairs that kept you from being fully available, you will need to discuss your situation with EDD to determine your eligibility for benefits during that time.
  • You did not look for work.  If you don’t conduct a job search either in person, by mail, over the internet or through other means, you could lose your benefits.  Remember, if you falsify the reporting of your job search efforts, you could lose your benefits and you could face criminal charges of fraud.
  • You refused work.  If you refused work, you will be contacted by EDD to determine if you are still eligible to receive benefits.
  • You started attending school or training.  If so, you will need to explain this to EDD to determine your continued eligibility.
  • You earned money whether you were actually paid or not.  If you made any kind of wages or earned money through any means (bonuses, commissions, pensions, jury fees, tips, vacation pay, self-employment, etc.), whether you were paid in that particular week or not, you must report those wages.  They will have an impact on the amount of your award for that week.  

How do I apply for California unemployment?

To submit an California unemployment application for UI benefits you will need to visit the EDD website and click on the link that says “File for Unemployment.”  Make sure you have all your personal information handy, your last employer’s information, the reason why you are no longer employed and be ready to state that you are available and able to work.

After you file a state of California unemployment claim, you will be mailed a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Claim Filed statement.  It will contain:

  • the date you filed of your California unemployment claim filing
  • your last employer’s contact information
  • the last day you worked for them
  • the reason you are no longer working for them
  • if you are receiving a pension or other income
  • if you are able and available to accept full-time work
  • designation that you have the legal right to work in the United States

It is vital that you check the accuracy of this information and contact the EDD within 10 days of receiving the notice to correct any errors.  If you wait longer than 10 days, it may result in a delay of receiving your benefits. California unemployment laws are strict when it comes to fraud, so it is important to report mistakes as soon as possible.

You will also receive a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award as well.  This gives you information about when your claim begins and ends, what your maximum benefit amount will be, what your weekly benefit amount will be and what your highest quarterly earnings are.  It will also give you instructions about your requirement to seek work each week as part of fulfilling your benefit requirements.  

You must review all of this information carefully, including all wage information from employers, and contact EDD immediately if the information is not correct.  If you have given false information or withhold facts, you could be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  

To challenge the wage computation or other facts on the award notice, you must contact EDD without 20 days after you receive the notice.

Check Your Eligibility

Absolutely RISK-FREE & Confidential Evaluation!

I acknowledge and understand that by submitting this Contact Request form through clicking "Check Eligibility!", I provide my express consent to the following: (1) That I am bound by Eligibility.com LLC’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use; (2) That I am not required to submit this form, and thereby agree to all terms located herein, as a condition to receive any property, goods, or services that may be offered, and that I may revoke my consent at any time.

How much money do I qualify for from unemployment?  How much are my unemployment benefits each week?

To calculate the weekly California unemployment compensation you are entitled to, the state uses one of two possible base periods.  Base periods are divided into calendar quarters and the quarter you were paid the highest amount of wages determines your weekly benefit amount.  

The Standard Base Period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the beginning date of the UI claim.  

If you do not have enough wages in the Standard Base Period to establish a claim, you may be able to use an Alternate Base Period.  It is the last four completed calendar quarters prior to the beginning of the claim.

To see the amount you will be entitled to receive you can review the EDD  Unemployment Insurance Benefit Table.  

When will I get my unemployment benefits?  How are California unemployment benefits paid?

In 2011, EDD began issuing Visa branded EDD debit cards.  These are used to provide benefits electronically instead of mailing out benefit checks.  You will be mailed a debit card when your claim is first processed and all future benefit payments will be uploaded and processed directly on to your card, giving you immediate access to your funds.  Cards have a three-year life, and if you file multiple unemployment claims during that period, all benefits will continue to be paid to that card.  

Although cards are issued by Bank of America, you do not need to have a bank account with Bank of America or with any other banks to use your card.  You may elect to have funds directly deposited from your debit card to a bank account of your choice. You must initiate this transaction through Bank of America.  If your card is lost, stolen or used inappropriately, you should contact Bank of America immediately. 

What if I am denied California unemployment benefits? What to do if your unemployment benefit claim is denied.

If you are denied benefits, you can file an appeal with EDD.  You must file the appeal in writing and state the reasons why you disagree with the decision.  Use can use EDD Appeal Form DE 1000M or send a letter on the Notice of Determination.  You have 20 calendar days from the date of the decision to file your appeal. In some cases, California unemployment extensions are granted f you can show a good cause why you were late. It is not uncommon for extensions to be granted if the California unemployment rate is high due to economic downturn.

The EDD’s Office of Appeals will grant you a hearing and your case will be heard in front of an administrative law judge.  You will be under oath when you testify.  After the hearing, you will be mailed a decision as to the outcome.  If you disagree with that decision, you can appeal to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.  

For more information

There are several ways to get additional information on California unemployment benefits.  Before you attempt to contact EDD, it is extremely helpful if you have your Social Security Number, email address and any specific information related to your issue so that there can be a quicker resolution to your inquiry.

The fastest way to get an answer…

According to the EDD, the fastest way to get an answer is to visit its website here.  After you access this California unemployment website, follow these instructions:

  • Select “Unemployment.”
  • Go to the top of the page and select “Contact EDD.”
  • Under “Online,” select “Ask EDD.”
  • Go to “Select a category” and use the drop down arrow.
  • Select the topic that most closely fits your question.

Through a California unemployment phone number

You can also call EDD at 1-866-333-4606.

EDD also provides assistance in many other languages as well

  1. English 1-800-300-5616
  2. Cantonese 1-800-547-3506
  3. Mandarin 1-866-303-0706
  4. Spanish 1-800-326-8937
  5. Vietnamese1-800-547-2058
  6. TTY (non-voice)1-800-815-9387

To access an EDD department directory, for a specific California unemployment number, go here. 

In person

The EDD also has a network of California unemployment offices that can help you in person.  To find the California unemployment office locations nearest you, visit our helpful guide.

By mail

For written assistance with California unemployment, contact the appropriate department depending on the nature of your inquiry

Unemployment Insurance
Employment Development Department
P.O. Box 826880 - UIPCD, MIC 40
Sacramento, CA 94280-0001

Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave
Employment Development Department
P.O. Box 826880 - DICO, MIC 29
Sacramento, CA 94280-0001

Workforce Services Branch
Employment Development Department
Customer Outreach Unit
P.O. Box 826880, MIC 69
Sacramento, CA 94280-0001

Labor Market Information Division
Employment Development Department
P.O. Box 826880, MIC 57
Sacramento, CA 94280-0001

Tax Assistance: Employers - General Correspondence
Employment Development Department
Taxpayer Assistance Center
P.O. Box 826880
Sacramento, CA 94280-0001

General Questions or Comments
Employment Development Department
P.O. BOX 826880, MIC 83
Sacramento, CA 94280-0001

Language Access Complaints
Equal Employment Opportunity Office
P.O. BOX 826880, MIC 49
Sacramento, CA 94280-0001

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