How to Apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits

How do you file for UI benefits?

Online at the EDD website or by telephone. Refer to the EDD pamphlet “For Your Benefit, California’s Programs for the Unemployed” for detailed information on how to apply for UI (see handout). This is the EDD’s online link to apply If you don’t have a computer there are free computers at libraries and at One-Stop Career Centers (see handout). To file by phone call 1-800-300-5616.
But, please note, the EDD encourages applying online due to very long phone delays.

When to apply?
When you are completely unemployed or working less than full time or after you have had your hours or work year reduced. You may be eligible for reduced UI benefits if working less than full-time. Your claim is filed effective the Sunday of the week you become unemployed so do not delay filing your claim. This link provides comprehensive information you need before applying for UI benefits and what to expect after filing your claim, including information about certifying for benefits. This link provides another good general overview of UI.

Note: A waiting period week may apply. If the employee has an existing claim, then they can file and start claiming the day after the last day of employment. If it is a brand new claim, then there is a waiting period of one week. Click here for more information on the waiting period.

What does it mean to be eligible for benefits?
Once you have filed a valid UI claim, in order to be eligible for benefits, you must be out of work through no fault of your own from your last employment and you must meet continuing eligibility requirements by being able and available for work, looking for work each week, by not refusing suitable offers of work, and certifying timely. If you fail to meet any of these requirements, the EDD will schedule you for a phone interview to determine if you are eligible to receive benefits.

What does it mean to certify for benefits?
This is when you file weekly claim certifications for a week in which you want to be paid UI benefits after your claim has been filed or your existing claim has been re-opened. You may certify for benefits online by using the EDD Web-CertSM, or by phone using the EDD Tele-CertSM, or by mailing the paper Continued Claim form. The quickest and easiest way to certify is by using the EDD Web-CertSM or the EDD Tele-CertSM. Due to current system limitations, not everyone will be able to certify online or by phone. A system upgrade will occur later in 2013 to expand these options to most claimants.

When can I expect to receive my first UI payment?
The first week after you file is an unpaid waiting week period. The first UI payment is usually issued within three weeks after filing, but it could take as long as five weeks. The EDD now delivers payment by debit card. The following link provides debit card information.

How long can I collect UI benefits?
Your claim begins on the Sunday of the week in which you file your claim and the benefit year of your claim is 52 weeks from that Sunday date. The maximum payable award on a claim is up to 26 weeks times your weekly UI benefit amount. Some individuals may have a maximum award that is less than 26 weeks. If you work part-time and collect UI benefits your maximum award is reduced only by the amount of UI benefits you have been paid. If you stop claiming benefits during your benefit year then want to resume claiming again, you must reopen your claim. You re-open your claim the same way you file a claim, that is, by submitting an online application or by calling the EDD. If you exhaust your benefits before the benefit year, no more benefits are payable on the claim. However, if federal extensions are in effect, you may be paid additional benefits beyond the 26 weeks.

Work Requirement:
While collecting benefits you are required to look for work. When you certify for benefits on a bi-weekly basis, you will be asked if you looked for work. Failure to look for work each week you are filing for benefits may result in a denial of benefits.

Can I collect UI benefits if I’ve been laid off due to a RIF?
Because your employer eliminated your position you are considered to be out of work through no fault of your own. You are eligible to receive benefits providing you meet all other eligibility requirements.

Can I collect UI benefits if my work year has been reduced?
Yes, providing you meet all other eligibility requirements. However you can only collect UI benefits during the first summer in which the change in employment conditions takes place.

Benefit Amounts:
What you are entitled to receive depends on how much you earned during the Base Period of your claim. The minimum weekly benefit amount is $40 a week and the maximum weekly benefit amount is $450 a week. Refer to the EDD website or refer to the EDD pamphlet “For Your Benefit, California’s Programs for the Unemployed” for more information about how the base period is established and how weekly benefit amounts are determined.

Are UI Benefits Taxable?
The state of California does not consider UI benefits as taxable income, however the federal government does.

What if I have Questions for the EDD?
Go to the EDD’s website at click on Contact EDD and follow the links.