The economic turmoil resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rattle on in California, with little sign we'll be out of the woods anytime soon. As of the week ending March 28, 6.Six million workers had filed their first week of unemployment benefit: a record number that's only set to increase. If you're one of the millions whose income has been negatively affected by the crisis, it's crucial to find out exactly what your entitlements are, and the way to claim them.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

On 27th March, the government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, an unprecedented $2 trillion stimulus bundle designed to keep both businesses and people afloat in these extraordinary times. In addition to a supplementary $600 weekly payment to unemployment claimants, the act allows small businesses to seek assistance via loans ($350 billion has been made available for the purpose) and industries, cities, and states to request a piece of a $500 billion loan fund. In an effort to reduce hardship, the government has additionally waived the usual 7-day waiting period for workers claiming Unemployment Insurance benefits due to COVID-19.

Am I Eligible for Unemployment Insurance Benefits?

As a result of the current situation, a certain flexibility has been applied to the usual eligibility criteria for claiming unemployment. Even though you wouldn't have been eligible for unemployment under the old guidelines, you may still have the ability to claim if your working situation has been negatively affected by COVID. As each state features its own guidelines for determining eligibility, it's worth checking the fine print to see if you be eligible for a Unemployment Insurance benefits in California. Under the standard guidelines, only those who tick the below boxes are eligible to claim unemployment:

  • I have worked in California for 18 months or more
  • I have earned $1,300 within the highest-earning quarter of the base period, or $900 in my highest earning quarter, along with a total base period earnings of just one.25 times the highest-earning quarter
  • I am unemployed through no personal fault
  • I am physically in a position to work
  • I am ready, willing, and readily available for work
  • I am actively looking for work

Further towards the federal government passing new legislation to permit states to provide Unemployment Insurance benefits to those affected by COVID-19, California has amended its eligibility criteria to offer more widespread support. As outlined on the State of California Employment Development Department website, underneath the new conditions, you may be able to claim Unemployment Insurance benefits if:

  • You're not able to work because you are sick with, and have been exposed to, COVID-19. If you are not sick yourself, you might be asked to provide a medical certificate validating your exposure.
  • You're not able to work because you are caring for a family member affected by COVID-19.
  • You're unable to work because of school closures and have no alternative way of childcare.
  • You're unable to work because your employer has shut down operations, either temporarily or permanently.
  • You've been inspired to work reduced hours because of COVID-19.
  • You are self-employed and your business has been adversely affected by COVID-19.

While we're on the subject of eligibility, tt's worth noting that the reason for your claim may modify the amount of unemployment you're paid: If you are sick or in quarantine, benefits will be capped at 60-70 percent of your base wage and will range from $50-$1,300 a week (based on your usual income). If you are caring for a sick or quarantined family member, you can file a Paid Family Leave PFL claim, which will entitle you to 60-70 percent of wages, with actual amounts varying from $50-$1,300.

If you've been furloughed, you will not be expected to actively search for other work, However, you must meet all other eligibility criteria and be ready and able to return to work as soon as your employer requests it. State benefits will range from $40-$450 per week depending on income. For an indication of how much you'll receive, FileUnemployment.org provides a useful calculator to help: simply enter your earnings details for the base period, along with your number of dependents, and the calculator will evaluate your potential entitlement amount. Do keep in mind, however, that this is an estimate only: your actual benefits may be different.

How Do I Apply for Unemployment in California?

To file claims, you will need to ensure you can provide the following documents:

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s Number (if applicable)
  • Employer Information Form (this will contain details of your employment history for the past 18 months)
  • Pay Stubs
  • Form SF08 and Form SF50 (if applicable)
  • Form DD-214 (if applicable)

While you're able to file your application by telephone (call 1-800-300-5616), our prime call volume currently being experienced is leading to lengthy waiting times. You're therefore recommended to file your application online if possible. To file your claim online, visit the Employment Development Department Portal at among the below times:

  • Sunday – 5:00 AM to 8:30 PM
  • Monday – 4:00 AM to 10:00 PM
  • Tuesday-Friday – 2:00 AM to 10:00 PM
  • Saturday – 2:00 AM to eight:00 PM

Providing you give accurate information and offer all requested documents, you can expect to receive a decision within 3 weeks. After submitting your application, you will need to log in weekly to verify your claim. Remember to do this even while a decision on your application is still pending. While you are waiting on a decision, it may be worth checking whether you're eligible for any other forms of assistance. Included in the CARES Act, the government makes an additional $17.8 million obtainable in Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds to those worse affected by the crisis. Assistance varies, however, you may be able to claim support for such necessities as utility assistance, rent, clothing, food, childcare, and transportation fuels. For more information about your possible entitlements, the EDD provides a comprehensive guide.

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