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California Unemployment

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California unemployment insurance (UI) is available to in-state workers who have recently lost their jobs. Generally, unemployment benefits are offered to individuals who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. These funds are provided to petitioners who meet specific program requirements, and they are intended to help support people as they search for new work.

In order to claim unemployment benefits in CA, applicants must make sure they meet the UI enrollment prerequisites, which include income and work requirements. Furthermore, all candidates must stay up-to-date on program requirements while they are receiving benefits in order to maintain their enrollment. The sections below will outline eligibility for unemployment requirements, as well as tips for how to prepare for the unemployment insurance interview, application and more. By preparing for this process beforehand and maintaining accurate personal records, local workers will have greater chances of successfully applying for California UI benefits.

What are the requirements to get unemployment in California?

Eligibility for unemployment is based on various factors that the state takes into account. Many of these unemployment insurance eligibility requirements relate to the petitioners’ financial situations and the circumstances that resulted in their unemployment. Regarding the latter, petitioners must:

  • Have received enough wages during the base period in order to file their claims.
  • Be either partially or completely unemployed.
  • Have lost their previous jobs due to circumstances that were out of their control.
  • Be willing and physically able to work.
  • Be actively searching for employment opportunities.

However, eligibility for EDD in California is not simply based on financial circumstances over any period in time. Applicants must meet established income requirements and working requirements during what is known as the “base period.” When determining a candidate’s qualifications for unemployment, the Employment Development Department (EDD) takes into account how much money candidates were earning during a 12-month period. The specific period depends on when candidates request unemployment benefits, but, generally, the base period refers to the previous year.

UI applicants may also have some questions regarding what it means to be unemployed due to circumstances that were out of their control. In general, the following types of circumstances would allow for applicants to receive unemployment benefits.

  • Layoffs — Employees who are laid off are usually eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
  • Firings — Employees who are fired due to underperformance or other related issues are generally able to receive UI.
  • Disasters or emergencies — When workplaces are damaged or closed due to natural disasters and other similar emergencies, employees are typically eligible to receive UI.

Applicants must also remember that, in some instances, CA unemployment eligibility may be extended to employees who quit their jobs. Individuals who quit due to a “good cause” may be able to receive unemployment benefits if they quit for reasons relating but not limited to: unsafe work conditions, leaving based on professional medical advice or leaving to protect the employees or their children from domestic violence.

How can I sign up for unemployment in California?

When researching how to apply for unemployment online, it is important that petitioners remember they will be required to submit specific, official information that validates their claims. An online application for unemployment is available through the EDD. This branch of the state department is responsible for evaluating and managing all UI claims, and candidates will be required to provide specific documentation that validates their identities, employment histories, finances and allegations regarding the circumstances that led to their unemployment.

Additionally, applicants have several other options regarding where to sign up for unemployment benefits. In addition to submitting an online application, petitioners can apply by telephone, mail or fax. However, the individuals must note that materials submitted online are processed the fastest. In order to apply for unemployment benefits online, applicants must:

  • Enter their information. Using the required documents listed below, candidates must fill out their applications by providing personal information. This will be information relating to their identification and personal finances.
  • Submit their employers’ contact information. Employers will have the opportunity to address former employees’ UI benefits requests, so petitioners must also be prepared to submit this information.
  • Provide their statements. On their applications, claimants are responsible for providing specific information regarding why they are no longer employed. This portion of the application serves as a testimony, so petitioners should be as detailed as possible.

In order to fill out a compelling online application for unemployment in California, candidates will also be required to submit proof of identification (which must be issued by the state or federal government) and official financial statements. For a simple breakdown of the different categories of required details/documents and acceptable examples, review the list below:

  • Proof of Identification I — Petitioners will need to provide their full names and Social Security Numbers.
  • Proof of Identification II — Applicants must provide an additional form of identification, such as their drivers licenses or state identification cards.
  • Previous Employers’ Information — Claimants are required to provide information relating to the employers for whom they worked the longest during the previous year and a half, as well as contact information regarding their most recent employers.
  •  Work Information — Candidates are responsible for providing the dates when they last worked at any job.

Furthermore, during the unemployment registration process, applicants will be prompted to submit specific information explaining whether or not they are currently receiving any reimbursement or payment from their previous employers. This includes payouts relating to unused vacation, sick or personal time. Finally, when non-citizens file for unemployment, they will need to provide additional documentation that proves they are legally able to work in the United States. Proof of registration with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is required for anyone who is not a citizen.

How do I prepare for the California unemployment insurance interview?

After submitting their UI applications, candidates must be prepared to participate in an unemployment phone interview. These conversations are conducted by EDD representatives, and both the applicants and their employers are usually required to participate. The CA unemployment interviewoccurs when the EDD has questions regarding a claimant’s materials, and in this case, the candidate and employer(s) are contacted to obtain the necessary details. While there is no uniform way to prepare for the unemployment insurance interview, both parties should make sure they have all relevant information on hand before their scheduled times. These interviews are specific to each case, but both the unemployment interview with the employer and the interview with the claimant will ask questions relating to:

  • How long the claimants were employed at their previous jobs.
  • Why the claimants are no longer working with their previous employers and if their unemployment was avoidable.
  • How long the claimants worked at their most recent jobs.
  • How much money claimants made at their last jobs.

The questions asked during the unemployment interview are designed to determine two pieces of information: whether or not the claimants qualify for UI benefits and whether or not their previous employers are responsible for paying these funds. Therefore, employers and claimants should both come prepared with relevant documentation that will support their statements. Employers’ interviews are generally brief, although the EDD does reserve the right to conduct additional interviews with the claimant and employer, should they be necessary.

Prior to conducting the unemployment phone interview, the EDD will send a notice through the mail to the applicant, which will include lists of possible questions and points of clarification that may be asked during the unemployment benefits interview. As a result, candidates should be prepared to answer these questions. Additionally, they may need to provide documentation that outlines preventive measures they took to keep their positions. Examples of these measures could include:

  • Requests they submitted for reassignments or transfers.
  • Notes from conversations they had with their supervisors regarding work performance.
  • Copies of formal warnings they received from their supervisors or Human Resources departments.

How do I claim unemployment benefits in California?

In order to claim unemployment benefits, petitioners must receive EDD approval on their submissions. Once a California unemployment benefits claim has been evaluated, candidates will receive Notices of Determination/Ruling in the mail. These official notifications announce whether or not claims have been accepted or denied. Both claimants and their employers receive these documents. Candidates who were granted admittance into the program are able to begin claiming benefits for unemployment by certifying their benefits. They can either certify online using their UI account or by submitting a Continued Claim Form to the EDD. Once applicants complete this portion, they will receive an EDD debit card, which the department will use to electronically transfer compensation to enrollees.

In order to maintain an active unemployment benefits claim, candidates are responsible for resubmitting their Continued Claim Forms every two weeks. Throughout California, beneficiaries are able to claim unemployment benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks during a calendar year. In most cases, benefits are offered to candidates for a period that lasts between 12 and 26 weeks.

What do I do if I am denied unemployment benefits in California?

Applicants may be denied unemployment benefits if they do not submit complete or qualifying claims. However, petitioners who are denied unemployment in California have the opportunity to appeal the EDD’s decision. Similarly, employers who have been deemed responsible to pay for UI benefits have the same right. When filing a first level appeal, both employers and employees must submit their requests within 30 days of receiving their Notices of Determination and/or Ruling. In these appeal requests, individuals must submit:

  • Identifying information — A petitioner will need to include the names of both parties and the business name, the latter if the petitioner is the employer. In addition, a UI claimant must include his or her Social Security Number, and an employer must include the employee’s Social Security Number and the company’s account number.
  • Contact information — Both parties will need to include their contact information, and employers must include the names of company representatives who are filing the appeals.
  • Reasoning — Along with a copy of the EDD’s decisions, the appealing parties will need to include a written reason for their appeals.

Once the unemployment denial appeal has been filed, individuals will be notified about their hearings at least 10 days before the hearings are scheduled. Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) conduct these hearings, and parties have the opportunity to submit additional evidence that supports their appeals. Once the ALJs have deliberated, they will send written decisions to both parties.

If the unemployment benefits are denied again, applicants can file second level appeals to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. This appeal process works similarly to that of the first level, but during second level appeals, parties typically may not submit additional information. However, they have 10 days to request whether or not they may present additional details. The board decides on these unemployment denials, and parties who are dissatisfied with these decisions have six months to file Writs of Mandate to the Superior Court to appeal these decisions.

How can I apply for a federal unemployment extension in California?

In periods of high national unemployment, a federal unemployment extension may be offered to individuals across the country who are out of work for prolonged periods of time. However, this unemployment benefits extension is not common, and it has not been offered in the United States for several years. Therefore, once enrollees have received UI benefits in California for the state’s maximum 26 weeks, they should prepare for their payments to end.

In cases when the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) extension is offered, beneficiaries must contact the EDD to see if they are able to enroll. This is a tiered system that offers enrollees different levels of extended benefits, depending on their financial and employment situations.

How do I contact the California unemployment office?

UI applicants may have additional questions regarding this process and whether or not they are qualified to apply for this program. In these instances, California unemployment applicants may want to contact their local EDD offices. In addition to contacting these offices by phone, there are EDD offices located throughout the state. To contact the EDD by mail, petitioners can direct their inquiries to:

Employment Development Department

P.O. Box 826880

Sacramento, CA 94280-0001

California Unemployment Office Locations


California Employment Development Department P.O. Box 826880-UIPCD, MIC 40 Sacramento, CA 94280 (800) 300-5616 View Website Unemployement Claim File

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