California Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment Insurance (UI) in California is an initiative taken up jointly by the state and the federal government. The purpose of the initiative is to provide financial support to those who have lost their jobs due to reasons beyond their control.
The government, along with providing financial support, also provides an opportunity for the job-seekers to find training and counseling programs to improve their skill sets. It also provides outlets where job-seekers can connect with prospective employers to seek employment opportunities.
Find out more about the services provided by the Employment Development Department (EDD) of California, and the eligibility requirements needed to qualify for unemployment insurance.
Eligibility to Apply for UI Benefits in California
To qualify for unemployment benefits in California, applicants must gain eligibility on three parameters set by the EDD. The three parameters are- monetary eligibility, job separation, and maintaining eligibility.
While applying for Unemployment Insurance in California, applicants must first meet the monetary eligibility requirements. The applicants must earn a minimum wage during the four-quarter base period. The weekly benefit amount and the maximum benefit amount of the applicant are dependent on the wages earned during the base period.
To be eligible for unemployment benefits in California, an applicant must have earned at least:
- $1,300 in the highest earning quarter of your base period, or
- $900 in your highest earning quarter, and a total base period earnings of 1.25 times the highest earning quarter
The base period is a 12-month period, which is divided into four quarters. EDD has designed two types of base periods to calculate wages to establish a claim. They are:
- Standard Base Period
- Alternate Base Period
A standard base period is the first four of the last five calendar quarters. In this method of calculation, the quarter prior to which you apply for benefits is not considered, but four quarters prior to this is considered.
For example, if an applicant claim begins in the first quarter of 2019 (i.e. Jan, Feb, and March), the base period will consist of the following quarters – Oct-Nov-Dec 2017, Jan-Feb-Mar 2018, Apr-May-June 2018, and Jul-Aug-Sep 2018. Note that Oct-Nov-Dec 2018 will not be considered as a part of the standard base period.
In the event the applicant does not have sufficient wages in his or her standard base period, EDD will then consider calculating his or her wages using the alternative base period. The alternative base period consists of the last four calendar quarters prior to the beginning date of the claim.
For example, if the claim begins in the first quarter of 2019, (i.e. Jan, Feb, and March), the alternative base period will consist of these quarters – Jan-Feb-Mar 2018, Apr-May-June 2018, Jul-Aug-Sep 2018, and Oct-Nov-Dec 2018.
The alternative base period can only be considered when the applicant does not have enough wages in his or her standard base period, but has sufficient wages in the alternative base period.
Once the monetary eligibility is established, the step for qualification will be to prove that the applicant lost his job due to no fault of his or her own. The applicants must meet the below-mentioned criteria to meet the job-separation criteria:
- The applicant must not lose the job through their fault
- The applicant was not involved in any illegal, criminal, or unethical activities in his or her workplace, which resulted in you getting fired
- The applicant was fired or work time was decreased due to lack of work
- The applicant did not quit the job due to lack of interest
Please note that not all those who are unemployed will be eligible for Unemployment Insurance. The benefits are given to only those who meet all the eligibility criteria set by EDD.
EDD will verify the reason given by the applicant for separating from your previous organization. It will contact your ex-employer to verify the reason given by the applicant. If any discrepancies are found, the applicant’s eligibility will be affected.
The EDD will conduct a telephonic interview with those who were fired or quit the job on their own to hear the issue on job separation. A notice will be mailed to the applicant if he or she is not eligible for benefits. In the event that the applicant is not happy with the response, he or she can file an appeal against the decision of EDD.
Establishing monetary eligibility and meeting the job-separation criteria will get the applicant qualified for unemployment benefits in California. However, the applicants are expected to maintain the eligibility factors throughout the benefits weeks. Failing to maintain the eligibility requirement will lead to interruptions in the payment of weekly benefits.
The applicants must take note of the following points to maintain eligibility during the benefits weeks:
- Be physically able to work throughout the benefit week period
- The applicant must be available to work
- Applicant must be ready to accept the work offered to him or her
- The applicant must be actively seeking for job opportunities
Applicants must certify for benefits each week by providing a certificate while applying for benefits. The information on the certificate will show if the applicant has met with all the eligibility criteria during the week.
How to Apply For UI Benefits in California?
Applicants will need the following documents to apply for unemployment benefits in California:
In the state of California, applying through the online portal is the most convenient mode to apply for benefits. Log in to https://www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI_Online.htm to register your claim. The timings to register for benefits differ on different days, which is listed below:
- Sunday – 5:00 AM to 8:30 PM
- Monday – 4:00 AM to 10:00 PM
- Tuesday-Friday – 2:00 AM to 10:00 PM
- Saturday – 2:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Applicants could avail services such as opening new claims, certifying for continued benefits, updating the address and phone number and receiving important notifications. Applicants can also view, request and print a copy of form 1099G for up to the past five years.
Applicants can also file claims for unemployment benefits through a phone call in California. They can call from Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 12 noon, on the following numbers as per their language choice:
- English – 1-800-300-5616
- Spanish – 1-800-326-8937
- Cantonese – 1-800-547-3506
- Mandarin – 1-866-303-0706
- Vietnamese – 1-800-547-2058
If the applicant is hearing impaired, he or she can reach the TTY line on 1-800-815-938.
Fax or Mail
The applicant can send their application for unemployment benefits through fax or by mail. All they have to do is to download the Unemployment Insurance Application forms from the Forms and Publications page of the edd.ca.gov website. Fill up the relevant forms and fax it or mail it to the EDD using the address on the forms.
How to File Weekly Claims
Applicants can file their weekly benefits by contacting the same sources used for filing the initial claims. Once the initial claim is filed, the applicant will receive crucial information on his or her claim. The applicant must read and respond to all the requests to avoid payment delays.
The applicant will also separately receive his or her first Continued Claim Form, DE 4581, which must be filled up and submitted once in every two weeks to request for your benefits. This process is known as certifying for benefits in the state of California, and this provides the EDD with the required information to verify the applicant’s weekly eligibility.
UI Benefits Amount
Applicants can use the calculator to find out how much weekly benefits he or she may approximately earn in the state of California.
Things to Know After Filing An Application
Once the application is filed, the claimant will begin to receive the benefit amount every week. There is a need for the claimants to be aware of all the rules and regulations imposed on them throughout the benefit period. The applicants must also know about the services imparted to the unemployed job seekers to make the best of the benefit period.
Overpayments and Fraud
Overpayments arise when the applicant receives benefits which he or she was not entitled to. If in case the applicant draws overpayments from EDD, he or she will receive a Notice of Overpayment via mail.
The Notice of Overpayment will contain information on the nature of overpayment that is drawn by the applicant, the amount to be paid back to EDD and penalties levied (if any). It will also contain information on the applicant’s right to appeal against the imposition of overpayment, and about the procedure to appeal.
The EDD has classified overpayments into two categories – Non-Fraud and Fraud.
Non-Fraud: If you received a payment which the applicant was not entitled to, but not intentionally or not as a result of his or her fault, it will be considered as a non-fraud overpayment. In such a case, the applicant will receive a notice stating that he or she received an overpayment and the excessive amount needs to be paid back. However, In some exceptional cases, the applicant may not be asked to repay the excessive amount.
There will be no penalties or interest levied on the applicants in the case of non-fraud overpayment.
Fraud: A fraud overpayment occurs when the applicant intentionally misleads the EDD into paying more benefits than he or she was entitled to. If the applicant withholds an important piece of information, lies about his or her earnings during the base period, gives false or fake documents to prove eligibility, fails to disclose information of wages earned during the benefits weeks and similar misleading tactics are considered as a fraud in the state of California.
If a fraud overpayment case is established, the applicant will be expected not only to pay back the excessive amount but also pay a penalty of 30% of the amount of the overpayment. He or she may also face disqualification from anywhere between 5 weeks to 23 weeks.
If the applicant fails to repay the excessive amount along with the stipulated fine amount, the EDD may deduct the money from his or her future weekly unemployment benefits amount, which is referred to as an offset.
As a policy of offset, the EDD may also deduct from or totally withhold the applicant’s state income tax refunds, lottery winnings, or any other source of income owed by the state. The EDD may also file a case against the applicant in a court of law, charge him or her court costs and interest, and record a lien on his or her property.
EDD extended benefits during economic-downturn or when the state’s unemployment rate is beyond the threshold level. It is suggested that the applicants should visit or call the concerned authorities to know more about the current available Reemployment Assistance plans.
Job Training Assistance
The state of California provides ample opportunities for applicants to improve their skill set to get better employment opportunities. California Training Benefits (CTB) provides opportunities to the applicants to further their education, improve their skill sets, and/or learn a new trade to improve their competitiveness in the job market.
If get approved by CTB, the applicant will be exempted from certain conditions such as to be available for work, to be actively seeking job opportunities, and accept job offers, while you are participating in a training program.