California Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • Learn more about your eligibility for unemployment benefits in the state of California, how benefits are calculated, how to apply for benefits and appeals.

If you legally reside in California and are out of work or have recently had your hours reduced, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits in California are regulated and distributed by the Employment Development Department (EDD). Eligibility is based on various factors, mainly pertaining to your previous employment record and earnings. Read on to learn more about who's eligible for unemployment benefits in California and how to apply for them.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in California?

Before filing a claim, you'll want to make sure you're eligible to receive unemployment benefits in California.

All Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for unemployment insurance, you must be at least partially unemployed due to no fault of your own and still physically able to work in the event you are presented with new employment opportunities. You are expected to actively seek new work. 

The EDD conducts a thorough examination of your work history and wages when you file for unemployment. You must have established a base period of at least 12 weeks of employment at your most recent employer and at least 12 months of employment history prior to making your unemployment claim. The minimum earning requirement is $1300 for the highest quarter of the base period. (See "How California Calculates Unemployment" below for more information.) 

Periodic Requirements for Maintaining Eligibility

To continue receiving weekly benefits, you must file a biweekly certification to confirm your current employment status. The main purpose of this is to establish proof that you are looking for work. Take care to keep accurate contact records of any company you apply to; the EDD may choose to contact them to verify your activity. 

How Do You Apply for California Unemployment Benefits?

You can file an unemployment claim online and over the telephone. To file online, visit the EDD website and click on the link that says "File for Unemployment." Be sure to have all of your personal information handy as well as your most recent employer's information. Be ready to explain why you are unemployed and state that you are ready and able to work.

After filing a California unemployment claim, you will receive a mailed confirmation notice. It will contain the following information:

  • The date you filed your claim
  • Your previous employer's contact information
  • The last day you worked for them
  • The reason you are no longer working for them
  • If you are receiving a pension or other form of income
  • If you are able and available to accept full-time work
  • Designation that you have the legal right to work in the United States

Be sure to double check the accuracy of all of this information and notify the EDD within 10 days if you need to make any changes. Waiting longer than 10 days may result in a delay in receiving your benefits. It's vital to report any discrepancies as soon as possible; California's unemployment laws are very strict when it comes to fraudulent activity.

To file a claim via telephone, you can contact the EDD at 1 (866) 333-4606 or 1 (800) 300-5616.

How Much Do You Get From California Unemployment?

If approved, unemployment benefits in California can range anywhere from $45 to $450 per week. You will also receive a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award. This provides information on when your benefits will begin and end, what your maximum benefit amount will be and what your highest quarterly earnings are. 

Additionally, your notice of insurance will give you instructions regarding your weekly requirements to seek work. This may include applying to at least two new jobs a week. Review this information carefully. If you wish to challenge or dispute your benefit amounts, you must contact the EDD within 20 days after receiving your notice. 

How California Calculates Unemployment

How much you are granted in benefits through the state is based on the income established by your prior employment base period.

To calculate what your benefits would look like, you'll have to reference your base-period wages over the first four of the last five calendar quarters you worked and determine the quarter in which you earned the highest. Then you divide the total wages earned throughout that quarter by 25. Round your result to the nearest dollar amount — this is an accurate depiction of your weekly benefit allowance (WBA).

How Long Unemployment Can Be Received

A typical unemployment insurance benefit will expire 12 months after it was first issued. You can no longer receive payments after your benefits have ended, even if there is still a balance on your claim. You can, however, reapply for benefits if you are still unemployed or only working part-time. Processing a new claim usually takes 2 to 3 weeks. 

California Training Benefits (CTB)

When you obtain unemployment benefits, the State of California helps you find a job training program to attend to help make you more attractive to potential employers. Involvement in CTB will not increase your payments, but it could make you more eligible for extensions. 

What Happens If Unemployment Claims in California Are Denied?

If your unemployment claim is denied, you will receive a Notice of Determination from the EDD. This notice explains why your claim was denied and provides information on the appeals process. Common reasons for denial of benefits include:

  • Failing to meet the earnings requirements during the 12-month base period
  • Getting fired for misconduct or any other situation in which your unemployment is through fault of your own
  • Quitting your previous job 
  • Refusing suitable work or not actively seeking new employment if you are physically able to work

How to File an Unemployment Appeal

If your claim is denied, you have 20 days to file an appeal. An appeal can only be filed by mail and must be sent to the address shown on the determination notice you receive.

When filing an appeal, be sure to specifically outline why you believe you should receive benefits. Throughout the appeal process, continue to file unemployment claims on a weekly basis. Additionally, continue to look for work and keep accurate, detailed records of your job search as you would if your benefits had been granted. This may seem like a waste of time, but it's not — if you win your appeal and have a full record of your efforts to find employment, you'll be entitled to retroactive benefits from the date your application should have been accepted initially. 

You may also want to hire an attorney to help you in your appeal hearing and even the odds against your previous employer's attorney. However, it's important to bear in mind whether the cost of hiring an attorney would be worth what you might win in benefits. 

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