The Unemployment Insurance Program In California

Nationwide, employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own may qualify to collect unemployment benefits. In California, these affairs fall under the Unemployment Insurance Program (UI), and is run by the Employment Development Department. The eligibility rules, prior earnings requirements, benefit amounts, and other details vary from state to state. Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers for collecting unemployment compensation in California.

What are the eligibility requirements?

There are three requirements to collect unemployment benefits in California:

  • Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.
  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by California law.

You must be able, available, and actively seeking work.

How soon can I file a UI claim?

If you have been laid off or are working less than 40 hours a week because work is slow, you should file a claim right away.

Where do I go to file a claim?

You may file your claim for unemployment benefits online, by phone, by fax, or by mail. You can find online filing information and contact information at or call the EDD Unemployment line at 1-800-300-5616 (English) or 1-800-326-8937 (Spanish). Representatives are available to help you over the phone from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on state holidays.

What should I expect when I send in my application?

Once it receives your application, the EDD will send you some documents, including a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award indicating how much you will receive if you are found eligible for benefits (despite the title of this notice, it does not mean you have qualified for benefits yet).

If you were fired or quit your job, the EDD may schedule a telephone interview to determine your eligibility for benefits.

What is the correct way to report weekly earnings on your UI form?

You should add up the hours you have worked in a week, and multiply that number by your hourly wage. This amount is what you must report on your UI form. You must report the total amount earned before deductions. You should not wait until you receive your paycheck to report your earned wages, the wages must be reported when you work, not when you get paid. Reporting wages incorrectly may jeopardize your eligibility to receive benefits.

How much can I expect to receive from my Unemployment Insurance claim?

Weekly benefit amounts range from a minimum of $40 to a maximum of $450 depending on the claimant’s earnings.

If I work with different companies in a week, how do I report how much money I earned from each employer, and which of the companies do I need to report as the last company I worked for each week?

You must add together all of the hours worked in a week for each employer; you then multiply this number by the hourly wage for each employer. This is what should be reported on your UI benefits’ form each week. If you worked for more than one employer during the same week, be sure and list the last day you physically worked during the week and list the name and address of the last employer. You must report all the money you earned and all the employers you worked for.

I have tried to call the EDD to open an unemployment benefits claim, but I am unable to get through to a representative. While I am trying to contact the EDD, I am called back to work. What can I do regarding the weeks that I did not work and was unable to file a claim via the telephone?

If you want to file a claim for the previous weeks, you must call the EDD and give the reason why you were unable to file a claim as soon as you qualified for benefits. Depending on your reason, the department will mail you a telephone appointment to determine whether or not your reason for not calling sooner is valid. It’s important that you call as soon as you’re no longer working, no matter the reason.

If I have exhausted my UI benefits, how soon can I apply for benefits again?

You may open a new claim after one year has elapsed from the date of your original application. Before re-applying, you should contact the EDD to see if you qualify for a Federal extension.

What do I need to do to qualify or get an extension if I have not found a job or the season has not started and I have exhausted my UI benefits?

If you exhaust your unemployment benefit money but cannot open a new claim because a year has not passed since the initial claim, the EDD will automatically file for an extension on your behalf as long as you are eligible and the Federal Government is offering them. As an agricultural worker you may have been out of work for quite some time, and your UI benefits may be close to expiration. If this is the case, you need to contact the EDD to inform them you will be back to work, as you may be exempt from having your claim expire.

If I am working part-time in another state, but also have wages from California, can I file a claim from outside of California?

Yes. You may call in from any state to open or re-open an unemployment claim. Your claim may be based on wages earned from both states.

What happens if at one point I was working without the proper legal documents, but since then I have become a legal resident. Can I collect unemployment benefits?

You must be in this country legally to be eligible for unemployment benefits. The EDD will only include the earnings you had earned when you had a legal right to work in the U.S.

What should I do if I have filed for unemployment, but I have not been paid benefits because my claim is under identity investigation because I could not verify the majority of information in my claim when I filed for unemployment?

When this happens, the EDD will send you a letter telling you what documents need to be submitted to the Identity Verification office to validate your claim. Once you have submitted all information, you should hear from the Identity Verification office within 10 days.

If I had been interviewed by the EDD over the phone to check eligibility for UI benefits, and after the interview find out I had been disqualified/denied for benefits, what can I do if I feel the decision was not fair?

When a person is denied benefits, the EDD will send them a letter telling them the reason they cannot collect unemployment benefits. The letter will include instructions on how to file an appeal. Once you receive this letter, you have 20 days to submit an appeal letter to the EDD to explain your case. You will then receive a letter with an appointment hearing date when the EDD will reconsider your application.

What happens if I pick up extra work during the period that I am receiving benefits?

You must report any wages on your claim forms for the week in which you earned the wages even if you weren’t paid for that work until later. Your gross wages are required (total without the payroll deductions) and the EDD will figure the amount of wages to deduct from your weekly benefit amount. A total of $25 or 25 percent of those earnings, whichever is higher, is not considered deductible from your benefits. Any wages beyond that will be deducted from your weekly benefit amount and you will be paid the difference, if any. If you accept full-time work for two weeks or longer, your claim will become inactive and no additional claim forms will be mailed. If you become unemployed again, you must submit a new application for benefits.

Understanding the nuances regarding unemployment benefits is crucial during a financially unstable time. It is very important that you not take a chance by relying on second-hand information. If you do not understand something or need more information about benefits or programs that the department offers, call The Employment Development Department over the phone at 1-800-300-5616 (English) or 1-800-326-8937 (Spanish), or online at The EDD representatives are available from 8a.m. to 5p.m., Monday through Friday, except on state holidays.