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Unemployment Benefits Extensions in California

Unemployed Californians nearing the end of their claim may be asking, “What can I do to extend unemployment benefits in CA?” Even those who are just beginning to receive benefits may be wondering exactly how to get an unemployment extension, should they not be able to find a job.

However, federal and California unemployment benefits extensions are not always available to unemployed individuals.

Unemployment compensation is a federal and state government partnership created to combat the contagion effect of high unemployment rates on the economy.

Though unemployment insurance is federally mandated, the state administers claims and payments. The initial unemployment benefits payments derive from tax contributions paid by employers.

California’s regular unemployment insurance is always available for qualified workers. Regular unemployment insurance can last up to 26 weeks. However, benefit payments may finish sooner, depending on the total amount of compensation awarded.

In times of high unemployment rates, federal unemployment extensions are available for qualified claimants after they have exhausted their state benefits. For those asking, “How can I extend unemployment payments?” the information below simplifies the steps for obtaining an unemployment compensation extension in California.

California Unemployment Resources

How to Get an Unemployment Extension in California

Individuals who need a California unemployment benefits extension can only receive one when the state’s unemployment rate reaches the federal threshold. This federal unemployment extension is the Extended Benefits (EB) program.

The Federal-State Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 1970 authorized EB as a permanent program that only becomes active in certain states when the unemployment rate is high. As the rate lowers and the state no longer meets the criteria, the program becomes inactive and all payments to claimants cease.

For qualified unemployed individuals who exhausted their original unemployment benefits, EB provides additional partial wage compensation for 13 weeks. States experiencing extremely high unemployment rates can volunteer to pay an additional seven weeks for a total unemployment benefits extension of 20 weeks.

Unlike regular unemployment insurance, financing for the federal unemployment extension program is equal between the state and the federal government – except between 2009 and 2013 when the federal government paid 100 percent of benefits. EB is currently unavailable as California’s unemployment rate remains below six percent.

When EB is active, claimants must continue to certify for unemployment insurance. Upon exhaustion of regular UI benefits, California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) notifies qualified claimants of their eligibility for unemployment compensation extensions.

However, qualifying for regular benefits does not automatically result in your eligibility for a federal unemployment extension.

Unemployment extension payments are the same amount as the initial regular unemployment insurance payments. Claimants approved for unemployment compensation extensions receive benefit payments directly from the federal government.

Like certifying for standard California unemployment benefits, extensions require individuals to document their efforts to gain employment. This includes continuing to register with CalJOBS and providing a detailed record of employer contacts.

Past Federal Unemployment Extensions in California

In June of 2008, the United States government established a temporary federal unemployment extension known as the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08). The 100-percent federally funded program catered to unemployed individuals who depleted their state’s regular unemployment insurance claim.

The EUC08 had four levels, or tiers, that differed by state availability and the total unemployment rate (the number of unemployed persons divided by the total labor force calculates the TUR):

  • Tier one of the federal unemployment extensions was available in every state and extended benefits up to 20 weeks, regardless of current or past TUR.
  • Tier two extended benefits up to 14 weeks in states with a TUR of at least six percent in the most recent three consecutive months.
  • Tier three extended benefits up to nine weeks in states with a TUR of at least seven percent in the most recent three consecutive months.
  • Tier four extended benefits up to 10 weeks in states with a TUR of at least nine percent in the most recent three consecutive months.

The federal unemployment extension EUC08 ended abruptly in January of 2014. There was no phase-out period for benefit compensation and payments ended with the program. The Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 was an extension of EUC08.