California Unemployment

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Unemployment Benefits Eligibility

General Benefits Eligibility Criteria

California residents may file for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits if they find themselves out of work through no fault of their own or if work hours are reduced. The best way to determine if you qualify for California unemployment benefits is to simply apply with accurate information. There are also specific criteria that must be met to begin collecting UI benefits, including:

Work Eligibility Criteria

  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own. If you quit your job or were fired, the EDD will complete a phone interview to determine if you are eligible to receive benefits
  • You must be partially unemployed (i.e. less than 30 hours per week) or totally unemployed.
  • You need to be willing and available to work immediately.
  • You must be actively looking for employment.
  • You must have received enough wages during a base period for your claim to be funded. This is explained below.

Wages Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for unemployment insurance in California, you have to first meet the monetary criteria of earning enough wages in a four-quarter period to receive benefits.

When filing an unemployment claim, you must meet the following wage eligibility criteria (which also determines the Maximum Benefit Amount and the Weekly Benefit Amount):

o   Gross salary earning must be $1,300 in the highest quarter of your Base Period or;

o   Gross salary of $900 in your highest quarter and total base period earnings of 1.25 times the high quarter earnings.

This calculation is also used to determine the Weekly Benefit Amount and the Maximum Benefit Amount (i.e. how long you will be able to receive weekly benefits).

There are two methodologies utilized to determine eligibility and the specific benefit amount. One is the Standard Base Period, which is the first four of the last five completed quarters before the date of the UI claim. For example, if you file a claim on July 1, 2016, the Standard Base Period will look to April 2015 - March 2016 to calculate wages.

If you do not have sufficient wages in this span of time, the EDD will look to the Alternate Base Period, which is the last four completed quarters before the date of the UI claim. Using our July 1, 2016 example, the Alternate Base Period would look to July 2015 - June 2016. This base period can only be used to determine eligibility if the wages in the Standard Base Period are not sufficient enough to qualify.

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Unemployment Availability Limits

Once qualified for unemployment benefits, you can receive benefits for up to 26 weeks or until you are fully employed. Benefits range from $40 a week and are capped at $450 per week as determined by the wages calculated from the Standard Base Period. Once eligibility has been determined, the first benefit payment will be provided and will normally only contain one week of benefits. There is a mandatory one week waiting period that is unpaid before benefits can begin. The first week of unemployment starts on the Sunday of the week in which you file for unemployment. Each claim week runs from Sunday to Saturday.

Unemployment Extensions

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program and Extended Benefits (EB) are discontinued and are no longer available as of May 12, 2012. California no longer has an employment rate high enough to qualify for an Extended Benefits program.