With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, the California unemployment rate continues to skyrocket as more and more businesses close their doors each day. California finds itself amongst the states most dramatically affected, with 878,000 new unemployment insurance claims filed in the last week of March alone.
This unprecedented influx continues to strain state agencies tasked with processing these claims, resulting in extended wait times to receive benefits and mounting frustration amongst recently unemployed Californians. Should you find yourself among those feeling lost or frustrated, be assured that the system is operating, and your claim will be addressed.
Curious about how to apply for unemployment in California? Below, we’ll review everything you need to know about applying.
To apply for unemployment benefits California residents need, your launch point will be the state’s Employment Development Department website found here. Click on the “Claims” icon to view the page where you will find details on the various options for registration, along with links to the two enrollment forms you will need to fill out should you choose to register online. You will find that you may apply for unemployment benefits in one of three ways:
Regardless of which method you choose, the information you will provide to complete your claim will be the same. To apply for unemployment California, you will need:
Be aware that any false or inaccurate reports will result in delays to your claim (at best) or outright denial of your claim (at worst). Be sure that your figures are accurate at the time of filing, as they will be corroborated by your former supervisors.
When selecting your application method, bear in mind that online registration is the option preferred and recommended by claimants and California unemployment officials alike. It is the most efficient and convenient option for both claimants and the EDD and has been made more so with recent upgrades to the EDD website. To apply for unemployment, California residents can submit their application during the following hours:
Before you are able to file a claim online, you first need to register and create two personal profiles; one with EDD and one with their auxiliary Benefits Program Online. Links for both are available on the page linked above.
When it comes to unemployment, California’s process hinges upon your profile being established. From there, you’ll be able to begin your claim. Simply follow the prompts to fill out the forms with the information regarding your employment history. Note that some of your former employers’ information will be filled in for you automatically. Do not change any of it. The accuracy of this information has already been verified by EDD.
Once your claim has been submitted you will receive a confirmation number. Keep this number for quick reference to your claim, should you have any questions down the road. Within 10 days of submission, you will receive a letter in the mail with a short questionnaire. Fill this out and return it as soon as possible. Once this is received by the department, you will receive notice of your awards and funds will be disbursed to you via state debit card.
Under normal circumstances, applying for California unemployment via phone is the most expeditious way to go about it. Before the current pandemic erupted, dedicated operators stood by during normal business hours five days a week to assist new claimants.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 quarantine has caused a massive surge in unemployment claims, which has prompted EDD to pull operators off of the phones to help process the surplus. The result is a reduced number of operators available to take calls for a shorter period of time each day.
New Operator Hours: Should you wish to try your luck on the phone, operators will be available to take your call Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Multilingual operators are on staff to support those who speak:
To begin filing, dial the toll-free number that corresponds to your primary language. Be sure to have all the necessary information at hand so that your operator can complete your claim as quickly as possible. Failure to provide all necessary information will require you to call back later and delay the distribution of funds.
As with claims filed electronically, claims filed via phone will be followed by a short questionnaire sent to you via snail mail. Simply fill it out, and send the designated portion of the document back to EDD in the envelope provided. You should then receive notice of your awards and a state-issued debit card preloaded with your available funds.
There is a mail-in option for those of you who prefer more traditional methods, and the process is relatively straightforward. Download and print the appropriate forms from the EDD website, fill them out, and send them by post to the EDD office in Sacramento (the exact address is available on the website). The other option is to print the forms and fax them to the appropriate number for the type of application you are filing. There are four different designations you may file under, so be sure to fill out the one that pertains to your personal work history.
Keep in mind that filing your California unemployment application via fax is considerably faster and more secure than submitting via post.
Under normal circumstances, there are six conditions that you must fulfill to be considered eligible for unemployment benefits in California:
In light of the current crisis, eligibility requirements have loosened dramatically, meaning not all conditions above must be fulfilled to be granted assistance. If you are totally or partially unemployed due to the outbreak of COVID-19, and through no fault of your own, you will likely be deemed eligible for unemployment benefits. You will not be required to provide proof that you are actively seeking work, and you will not be placed into work via the department’s placement program.
In addition to unemployment relief made available by the state of California, the federal government will be offering assistance as well. On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability Act (commonly referred to as CARES Act) was signed into law in order to provide additional relief to those currently unemployed. The federal government has set aside $2.2 trillion to be divided up amongst the states and disbursed to unemployed citizens to the tune of $600 per week. To be clear, this is in addition to any amount already granted by the state.
Any individual who qualifies for unemployment assistance under California state law will be eligible to receive federal aid as well. Conveniently, there is no additional application process necessary to qualify for federal aid; once you have fulfilled all conditions of the state application, you are done. Funds will be made available to the state government, and disbursed through the same channel as state unemployment benefits (i.e. state-issued debit card).
One of the most helpful features of California unemployment benefits is that payments are retroactive; meaning that once you have qualified, you will be paid for the interim between now and when you last worked. Unfortunately, however, you are only eligible to continue receiving benefits for 26 weeks, at which time you would have to reapply.
In light of the current pandemic, the federal government has added a couple of additional features to the CARE Act. First, anyone qualifying for state aid will be eligible to receive the added $600 federal grant for an additional 13 weeks once state aid has expired. In short, eligible applicants will receive $600 per week from the federal government for up to 39 weeks through December 31, 2020.
Many workers, such as those who are self-employed or operate as independent contractors, are not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits under state law. However, there is a provision under the CARES act that allows these workers to receive benefits as well, provided their ability to work has been significantly impaired by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Those deemed eligible under this provision are as follows, according to the National Law Review:
While state and local governments are going to great lengths to support unemployed citizens during this unprecedented era, there are additional covid financial support resources available in the private sector as well. It may behoove you to research organizations specific to your community or your profession, as grants are being made available to those in need.
Possible Finance: For those who may need funds to put food on the table while awaiting government assistance, there are private institutions like Possible Finance willing to grant small loans with minimal eligibility requirements to help hold you and your family over in the interim. Be sure to explore all avenues to keep you and your family healthy and thriving.
Employment Development Department of California. File An Unemployment Insurance Claim. https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/Filing_a_Claim.htm
Employment Development Department of California. Eligibility Requirements. https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/Eligibility.htm
National Law Review. CARES Act Expands Unemployment Benefits. https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/Eligibility.htm