All Your Unemployment Insurance Questions, Answered
As the consequences of the novel coronavirus prevent many Californians from working, I understand that many families are hurting and desperate for help to pay rent and afford basic necessities. Our state Employment Development Department (EDD) staff are working seven days a week to process unemployment insurance (UI) and other benefit claims.
My office is happy to assist all Assembly District 28 constituents with any issues you experience filing a UI claim. Please check to see if you live in Assembly District 28 at this link: findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov. We may be reached by phone at (408) 446-2810 or via email at Assemblymember.Low@assembly.ca.gov. Please be prepared to describe your issue, provide your full legal name, and contact information.
We have also put together a guide on your frequently asked questions. As always, please visit the EDD Unemployment Insurance webpage and EDD’s COVID-19 FAQ webpage for the most up-to-date and comprehensive information. This guide is designed to supplement, not replace, the information provided directly on the EDD website.
This content was last updated on April 28, 2020.
How do I file a UI claim?
You should file an unemployment insurance claim online at this link. Please note: you must finish your application by Saturday evening of the week that you started the application. If you do not finish by Saturday evening, all the information you previously entered will be automatically deleted.
It is also possible to file by phone, by fax, or by mail, but it is not preferable. Learn more about how to file and what information you need to file a claim at this link.
How much money should I expect to receive?
Your weekly benefit amount (WBA) is based on the wages you earned during a four-quarter “base period.” Use this calculator to determine how much you should expect to receive per week. Benefits can range from $40 to $450 each week. In addition, the CARES Act gives all UI beneficiaries an additional $600 on top of your current weekly benefit amount beginning on Sunday for the week ending April 11, 2020.
How long will it take for me to receive my first payment?
Due to the volume of claims that the EDD is processing, it takes about three weeks for most Californians to receive their first benefit payment if found eligible.
How long can I be paid unemployment benefits?
Normally, in California benefits can be paid for up to 26 weeks within a one-year timeframe. However, the CARES Act extends UI benefits for 13 weeks for all those who exhaust their current benefits. That means now Californians can be paid UI benefits for up to 39 weeks.
I am a gig economy worker (ex: Uber or Lyft driver) and my income has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Can I apply for unemployment insurance?
Yes. Misclassified gig economy workers should file an unemployment insurance claim through the normal online system (see “How do I file a UI claim?” above). Because you were misclassified as an independent contractor by your employer, you may receive a UI award notice that shows $0 in wages.
If you believe that EDD’s record of your wages is not correct because you were misclassified by your employer, follow the instructions on the notice to respond to EDD. EDD will follow up with you and your employer for any details needed to make a determination, which may include your W-2, Form 1099, or a paycheck stub.
I am self-employed and cannot work because of the stay-at-home order. Can I apply for UI benefits?
Yes. The CARES Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program to help unemployed Californians who are business owners, self-employed, independent contractors, and others who are not usually eligible for regular state UI benefits.
I am self-employed and filed a UI claim before the PUA program launched. Do I have to file a new claim?
Yes. If you are self-employed or an independent contractor who previously filed a claim but was found ineligible, you will have to file a new claim through the UI portal. The application now has an option to indicate your status as an independent contractor.
Will I be ineligible for unemployment benefits if I answer “no” to the question about looking for work?
Answer the question truthfully. Given the unique economic situation and lack of available work created by COVID-19, the EDD has adjusted their usual eligibility requirements to automatically process a large volume of claims. You will not be penalized if you answer “no” to the question about looking for work and will be paid benefits for that week if you meet all other eligibility requirements.
I am undocumented. Do I qualify for unemployment insurance?
To collect UI benefits, you must show that you were in satisfactory immigration status and authorized to work in the United States when earning the wages you used to establish your claim. You must also give proof that you are currently in satisfactory immigration status, and are authorized to work each week that you claim benefits.
I work two jobs. I was laid off from one job, but I still work at my other job part-time. Can I apply for UI?
Yes. You should still apply for unemployment insurance if you work multiple jobs and were laid off or had your hours reduced at one place of employment. However, you must report any wages that you are still earning. A portion of your earnings could be deducted from your UI payment. Learn more about reporting work and wages at this link.
My unemployment account is on hold. How can I contact someone to have my hold removed?
If your unemployment account is on hold, you can contact a UI representative at 1-800-300-5616 between 8am and 8pm, 7 days a week.
If you still have access to your UI Online account, you can contact a representative through the online “contact us” function to have your hold removed.
I did not indicate that my reason for losing hours is the COVID-19 crisis. Do I need to update my claim?
No. You do not need to update your claim if you did not mention COVID-19 as your reason for loss of work hours.
Why does my EDD notice show that I have $0 in benefits available?
Generally, a mailed notice showing a $0 benefit award available may mean that EDD has no wage records reported by an employer to support an unemployment claim, or EDD needs to verify your identity for the reported wages that belong to you. Employers pay a contribution to the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund for each employee they have on their payroll. This pays for unemployment benefits — workers do not contribute to UI.
If you filed for UI and received an award notice with $0 benefits available, it could be due to one of three scenarios:
- If EDD was unable to verify your identity with their records, they will mail you a request to verify your identity. You have 10 calendar days from the mail date to send us two forms of identity documents from the list of Acceptable Documents for Identity Verification (DE 1326CD) (PDF). Once EDD verifies your identity, you’ll receive a new notice telling you what their wage records show for weekly UI benefit payments if you meet all other eligibility requirements.
- You were misclassified by your employer as an independent contractor instead of an employee or your wage information may have been inadvertently transposed when your employer reported your information to the EDD. If you believe EDD’s record of your wages isn’t correct, follow the instructions on the notice to respond to the EDD. EDD will follow up with you and your employer for any details needed to make a determination, which may include your W-2, Form 1099, or a paycheck stub.
- You’re self-employed or an independent contractor and have not paid contributions to the state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. As part of the federal CARES Act, the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program helps unemployed Californians who are usually not eligible for regular state unemployment benefits and are unemployed or not providing services due to reasons directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including business owners, the self-employed or those with limited recent work history. Visit the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance page for updates and information on eligibility and when to file.
Where can I go for help filing my claim?
Check out the California EDD YouTube channel for helpful videos on how to file a claim for UI benefits. Here is one video that explains how to file a new claim using UI Online. In addition, Santa Clara County has created a COVID-19 Assistance Navigation hotline to help residents with the UI application. Call (408) 809-2124 and leave a voicemail. Your call will be returned within 24 hours.
I'm having issues with my Bank of America EDD debit card. Who can I contact for help?
If your card was lost or stolen, you should call Bank of America EDD Debit Card Cardholder Services at 1-866-692-9374. Please note: Bank of America is experiencing longer than normal customer wait times.
For all other issues, including checking your account balance, Bank of America recommends that customers go online to prepaid.bankofamerica.com/EDDCard.
I have not yet received my Bank of America EDD debit card after waiting for more than 5 business days. Why might this be?
If you have previously received unemployment or disability benefits from the EDD on a prepaid card, the EDD will continue to send funds to that existing prepaid card account. If you are no longer in possession of that card, you will need to request a replacement card by accessing the Replace My Card feature at this link.
Please allow 7-10 days from the order date for the card to arrive in the mail. If you make another request for a new card while the first card is still in transit, the second request will permanently block the first card.
If your previous prepaid card has expired, a new replacement card will typically be automatically sent once the EDD posts a new payment to your account.