California Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment insurance in California is an initiative taken up jointly by the state government 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 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 are expected to have earned 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, you 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 your 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 you do not have sufficient wages in your standard base period, EDD will then consider calculating your 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 you do not have enough wages in your standard base period, but you have 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/her own. The applicants must meet the below-mentioned criteria to meet the job-separation criteria:
- You did not lose the job for any fault of yours
- You were not involved in any illegal, criminal, or unethical activities in your workplace, which resulted in you getting fired
- You were fired or your work time was decreased due to lack of work.
- You 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 you for separating from your previous organization. It will contact your ex-employer to verify the reason given by you. If any discrepancies are found, your eligibility for benefits 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/she is not eligible for benefits. In the event that the applicant is not happy with the response, he/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/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?
You 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
You could avail services such as opening new claims, certifying for continued benefits, updating your address & phone number and receive important notifications. You could also view, request and print your copy of form 1099G for up to the past five years.
You may also file claims for unemployment benefits through a phone call in California. Call from Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 12 noon, on the following numbers as per your 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 you are hearing impaired, reach the TTY line on 1-800-815-9387
Fax or Mail
You may also choose to send your application for unemployment benefits through fax or by mail. Download the Unemployment Insurance Application forms from the Forms and Publications page of the EDD website. Fill up the relevant forms and you can either fax it or mail it to the EDD using the address on the forms.
How to File Weekly Claims
You can file your weekly benefits by contacting the same sources used for filing the initial claims. Once you file your initial claim, you will receive crucial information on your claim. You must read and respond to all the requests to avoid payment delays.
You will also separately receive your first Continued Claim Form, DE 4581. You must fill this up and submit it 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 your weekly eligibility.
UI Benefits Amount
Use the calculator to find out how much weekly benefits you 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 you receive benefits amount which was not supposed to be paid to you as you were not eligible to receive the excessive sum that was transferred to you. If in case, you drew overpayments from EDD, you will receive a Notice of Overpayment via mail.
The Notice of Overpayment will contain information on the nature of overpayment that is drawn by you, the amount you will have to pay back to EDD and penalties levied on you if any. It will also contain information on your 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 you were not entitled to, but not intentionally or not as a result of your fault, it will be considered as a non-fraud overpayment. In this case, you will receive a notice stating that you’ve received an overpayment and that you will have to pay the excessive amount back.
In some exceptional cases, you 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 you intentionally mislead the EDD into paying more benefits than you are entitled to. If you withhold an important piece of information, lie about your income earned during the base period, give false or fake documents to prove eligibility, not disclosing 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 is established in your case, you will be expected not only to pay back the excessive amount but also pay a penalty of 30% of the amount of the overpayment. You may also face disqualification from anywhere between 5 weeks to 23 weeks.
If you fail to repay the excessive amount along with the stipulated fine amount, the EDD may deduct the money from your 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 your state income tax refunds, lottery winnings, or any other source of income owed to you by the state. The EDD may also file a case against you in a court of law, charge you court costs and interest, and record a lien on your property.
There are no federal or state-operated benefit extension programs given presently in California. It is suggested that the applicants should visit or call the concerned authorities to known 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 you get approved by CTB, you 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 your training.