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How to Claim Benefits for Unemployment in California

Former workers can claim unemployment benefits in CA provided they meet the eligibility requirements. The federal government established unemployment benefits to help sustain unemployed workers while they look for new jobs.

The United States Department of Labor collaborates with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) to provide qualified individuals with funds during the interim between employments.

California unemployment benefits claims can partially replace lost wages with $40 to $450 of government-funded compensation weekly.

Find out more about federal unemployment benefits and more in the topics below.

How to Claim Unemployment Benefits in California

To start a CA unemployment benefits claim, unemployed individuals must be eligible according to state law.  Establishing an unemployment benefits claim requires a specific income minimum within the past 18 months.

To claim unemployment benefits, former employees must have earned at least $1,300 in a quarter during their 12-month base period. If the highest quarter is less than that amount but more than $900, the claimant must have earned 1.25 times the amount of his or her highest quarter within the base period. Workers who earned less than $900 in any given quarter do not qualify for a CA unemployment benefits claim.

The EDD requires claimants to be fully or partially unemployed to collect regular unemployment insurance. Unemployed individuals must have lost their job or a portion of their working hours through no fault of their own. Examples of no-fault unemployment include a reduction in hours due to slow business or mass layoffs due to company closure.

Claiming benefits for unemployment in California after your termination or resignation will require you to perform a phone interview with an EDD representative. The interviewer will conduct an audit of your employment separation issue to determine your eligibility.

Employment separations that involve the following will disqualify you from filing CA unemployment benefits claims:

  • Quitting for no reason
  • Being fired for deliberate misconduct
  • Being fired for failing a drug or alcohol test
  • Being fired for repeated tardiness or absences

Claiming benefits for unemployment in California requires workers to actively seek jobs. The EDD obligates claimants to be currently able, available and willing to accept employment. Federal unemployment benefits do not extend to workers who are unemployed due to health conditions such as disability or illness.

Other programs like Disability Insurance (DI) are available for those that qualify.

Qualified Californians can claim unemployment benefits online, by phone, by mail or by fax. Except on holidays, calls centers are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. PST. Applications for unemployment benefits are available online for submission or printing – for those who prefer claiming benefits for unemployment by mail or fax.

The mailing address and fax number are on the application. In any case, individuals who know how to claim unemployment benefits online will have the easiest and fastest method, though 10 days should be allowed for processing.

How to Continue to Claim Unemployment Benefits in California

To continue claiming benefits for unemployment in California, the EDD requires former employees to answer certification questions pertaining to workable days, wages earned and other reportable information. For those who are familiar with how to claim unemployment benefits, certifying biweekly is very similar.

Certification questions can be answered in the same way you filed initially: by phone, by mail or online.

Questions on California unemployment benefits claims include:

  • Were you too sick or injured to work?
  • Did you look for work?
  • Did you refuse work?
  • Did you begin attending any kind of school or training?
  • Did you work or earn wages?

Federal unemployment benefits in California require approved claimants to register on California’s online labor exchange system, CalJOBS. Within 21 days, claimants must update their information on the website or in person at an America’s Job Center of California location. To continue claiming benefits for unemployment insurance, individuals must make every effort to find employment.

Learn About California Unemployment Benefits Extensions

Individuals who have exhausted their CA unemployment benefits claim may be able to obtain an unemployment benefits extension.

However, this only occurs during times of high unemployment in the state. Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) is one federally funded program that unemployed individuals may be able to obtain assistance from if they have depleted their standard unemployment benefits claim.

Learn About California Unemployment Benefits and Federal Income Taxes

California unemployment benefits claims are taxable. One of the claim questions on the biweekly form asks the claimant if he or she wants to have federal income tax withheld from his or her unemployment payments. The choice to have federal income tax withdrawn can change each time.

Each claimant receives a form listing the total UI payments for tax purposes. Individuals must include unemployment insurance payments as income when filing taxes.