California Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

Calendar Icon Updated April 02, 2020
Unemployment

COVID-19 UPDATE: Because the coronavirus pandemic has left so many Americans jobless, the federal government has given states more flexibility in granting unemployment benefits. If you have questions about whether you’re eligible for unemployment benefits read our COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits and Insurance FAQ and check out California’s claimant handbook.


A Guide to unemployment benefits in California

The state agency in charge of administering unemployment insurance 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 the EDD as the first step in becoming eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Continuing California unemployment claims are monitored to ensure claimants are complying with guidelines set by the state.

How do I file for unemployment benefits in California?

To submit an application for unemployment benefits in California 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, and 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 following information:

  • The date you filed your California unemployment claim
  • 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’s 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’s important to report mistakes as soon as possible.

You will also 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. 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 the EDD immediately if the information is not correct. If you’ve given false information or withheld facts, you could be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.

To challenge the wage amount or other facts on the award notice, you must contact the EDD within 20 days after you receive the notice.

Where do I submit my claim?

California Unemployment Office

The Employment Development Department 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.

For mail-in 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

California unemployment phone numbers

The Employment Development Department phone number is 1-866-333-4606.

The EDD also provides assistance in many other languages as well:

  • English 1-800-300-5616
  • Cantonese 1-800-547-3506
  • Mandarin 1-866-303-0706
  • Spanish 1-800-326-8937
  • Vietnamese 1-800-547-2058
  • TTY (non-voice) 1-800-815-9387

Visit the EDD contact lists for specific California unemployment numbers.

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.

FAQs

What are the requirements to qualify for unemployment benefits in California?

To be eligible to receive Unemployment Insurance 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 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 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 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 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.

What if I am denied benefits? How can I appeal a denial of my claim?

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. You 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 if you 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 Employment Development Department’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.

When and how will I be paid my weekly unemployment?

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 also 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.

How much money do I qualify for from unemployment?

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

Eligibility Team

We are a team of experts dedicated to finding the right government programs for you. Our mission is simple: help people quickly and easily understand which programs they might be eligible for. Our team is dedicated to researching and providing you with the most relevant information. We compile only the most trusted information from government sources into one place so you can find the facts you need and skip what you don’t.

Read More