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How To File For Unemployment In California During The Coronavirus Pandemic

An illustration of a handbook on how to file for unemployment benefits in CaliforniaAn illustration of a handbook on how to file for unemployment benefits in California
min read
August 21, 2023

If you’ve been laid off as a result of the coronavirus, you’re not alone. According to an article in The New York Times, Governor Gavin Newsom said that a staggering 1 million Californians have filed for unemployment since March 13. 

Navigating the process of filing for unemployment can feel overwhelming. And with the coronavirus, the process is changing and evolving—and it’s more important than ever to understanding how to file for unemployment in California, what benefits you may be eligible for, and what steps you need to take to make sure you receive the money you need to support yourself and your family through this difficult time.

Let’s take a deep dive into how to file for unemployment in the state of California during the coronavirus pandemic—and the steps you need to take to claim your unemployment benefits:

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits in California?

The first step to claiming your unemployment benefits is determining your eligibility. 

If you’ve been laid off or your hours have been reduced as a result of the COVID-19, you can file an unemployment insurance claim through the Employment Development Department (EDD). 

The EDD has certain eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance (UI) claims. In order to file a UI claim, you must be:

While one of the requirements for UI claims is that you’re actively seeking work, the EDD has confirmed that people who are temporarily unemployed due to the coronavirus and expect to go back to work within the next few weeks don’t need to meet this requirement in order to claim their benefits. 

How much—and when—will I get paid?

The amount you receive in unemployment benefits is determined by your wages over the past 12 to 18 months (known as the “base period”), with weekly benefit amounts (WBA) ranging between $40 and $450. Typically, there is a one-week unpaid waiting period for UI benefits; however, Governor Newsom’s executive order waives that waiting period—which means you can collect UI benefits for the first week you’re out of work. 

It can take up to a few weeks from the time the EDD receives your claim for them to process and issue payments—and with the huge increase in claims, that period may be extended. 

How do I file an UI claim?

Once you’ve determined you’re eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, you’ll need to file a claim with the Employment Development Department.

Step one: Gather your personal and work information

Before filing your claim, you’ll need to gather relevant personal and work information. According to the EDD’s Unemployment Insurance Checklist, you’ll need to following information to file a UI claim:

Personal information

Last employer information

Past employer information

If you have a recent pay stub, make sure to keep it handy; your pay stub will contain a lot of the information you’ll need (like your company’s official name and your hourly wages) to file your UI claim.

Step 2: File the claim

Once you have all the necessary information ready to go, it’s time to file your claim. 

You have the option to file your UI claim by phone, mail, or fax (relevant numbers and addresses are available here), but that can delay the process fastest way to get your claim processed is by filing online

Step 3: Access your funds (and continue to certify your benefits)

Once your claim has been processed and approved, the EDD will mail you key information on your UI claim, including your weekly benefit amount and the length of your benefit coverage. Once your first benefits payment is issued, you’ll also receive an EDD Debit Card in the mail, where all benefits will automatically be deposited each week, giving you instant access to your funds.

In order to continue to request benefit payments, you’ll need to confirm your eligibility with the EDD every two weeks. You can certify your benefits through the UI online platform—or, if you prefer, by phone or mail

What if I don’t meet the eligibility requirements for unemployment?

If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits, there are other resources available:

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