COVID-19 FAQs: Unemployment Insurance Benefits

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COVID-19 FAQs

There are regular Unemployment Insurance and federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits available. You can apply for both programs using UI Online SM. For more information, review the Unemployment Benefit Programs Flowchart (PDF). If you are unsure of your eligibility, apply for unemployment as soon as you are out of work or have your hours reduced.

File your unemployment claim as soon as you are out of work or have your hours reduced.

Everyone uses the same application, both for Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The fastest way to apply is through UI Online.

You can also apply for unemployment by phone, mail, or fax.

If you qualify for Unemployment Insurance, your weekly benefit amount can range from $40-$450. Depending on your weekly benefit amount, you could get benefits for 13 to 26 weeks, not including any benefit extensions.

Your payments could decrease if you perform some work for pay or if you receive other income while you are claiming unemployment. The first $25 or 25 percent of your income (whichever is greater) will not be deducted.

For example, if you earned $75 in a week, we will deduct $50 from your weekly payment because the first $25 does not apply. If you earned $400 in a week, we will deduct $300 from your weekly payment because the first $100 (25 percent) does not apply.

You can use the Unemployment Insurance benefit calculator to help estimate what your weekly benefit amount could be.

It takes at least three weeks to process a claim and issue payment to most eligible workers.

After you file a claim and your account is set up, you must “certify” for your benefit payments. Certifying is answering basic questions every two weeks that tells us you’re still unemployed and eligible to continue receiving payments. Usually, it will take about a week after you certify before you receive your first benefit payment. With the large amount of claims we are processing, there may be delays.

The Governor’s Executive Order waives the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can start qualifying for unemployment benefits as soon as you are out of work. The start date of your claim will be the Sunday of the week you applied for unemployment. You can request to backdate your claim date to the week you became unemployed due to COVID-19. If approved, benefits will be back paid based on your last day of work.

If you received unemployment benefits you were not eligible for, we will send you a notice. Visit Benefit Overpayment Services to learn how to repay an overpayment after receiving a notice.

If you want to repay these benefits before receiving a notice, review the following:

  • Benefit check not cashed – Return the original check to the EDD.
  • Benefit check cashed or payment received by debit card – Send a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order made payable to the EDD.

Include a letter with the following information:

  • Name.
  • Mailing address.
  • Social Security number or EDD Customer Account Number (EDDCAN).
  • Week or weeks that the payment applies to.
  • Reason for returning the benefits.

Mail the payment and letter to:

Employment Development Department – Overpayment Center
PO Box 66000
Anaheim, CA 92806

Note: If you return the overpayment, you will still receive a notice from the EDD.

Eligibility

Yes, you may be eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits in these situations:

  • You paid into UI Elective Coverage and met those requirements.
  • Your past employer paid UI taxes on your wages over the past 5 to 18 months.
  • You may have been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee.

If you are not eligible for regular UI, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Important: When filing for your UI claim, you will be asked for your last employer.

  • If you are a business owner, independent contractor, or a self-employed worker, list yourself as your last employer.
  • If you believe you were misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, list the business you contract with as your last employer.

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you choose to stay home. Once you file your claim, we will contact you if we need more information.

Depending on the situation, you may qualify for Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave benefits . If you are not eligible, you can apply for unemployment benefits.

You may be eligible for unemployment if:

  • Your hours are reduced due to the quarantine or caring for a family member.
  • You were separated from your employer during the quarantine or because you were caring for a family member.
  • You are under a quarantine required by your healthcare provider or a state or local health officer.

Apply for unemployment as soon as you are out of work or had your hours reduced. We may need to set up a phone interview with you to collect more details.

You may be eligible to receive federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. PUA is for people who don’t qualify for Unemployment Insurance and has specific eligibility requirements related to COVID-19.

For more information about penalty weeks and PUA, refer to the PUA FAQs.

No, if there are enough reported wages over the last 18 months to qualify for a regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim, then we are required by law to proceed with a regular UI claim for you. When you apply for unemployment, we will let you know if you qualify for UI or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

If you are receiving regular UI benefits, you cannot qualify for PUA benefits under federal law.

In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers who perform services for a family member (family member is defined as a spouse, son, or daughter) are not eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.

If you do not have another job to qualify for regular UI, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Use UI Online to apply for benefits and we will determine if you qualify for regular UI or PUA benefits.

Claims

Answer Yes if you are currently working for this employer or plan to return to work for this employer. For the start date, enter the next day you plan to work.

Your last date worked is the last day you worked for any employer, whether you are still working or not.

Our system might determine that you have $0 in benefits available if we are unable to verify your identity or your wages. If this happens, we may need more information to process your claim.

For details, including how to request an investigation, refer to Step 1 in Unemployment Claims.

If you’re self-employed or an independent contractor and have not received employment (W-2) wages in the past 18 months, you may still qualify for benefits with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

The following are some reasons an unemployment claim can take longer to process:

  • Identity Verification: We compare the information you provide on your application to the DMV and the Social Security Administration. If it doesn’t match, you will receive a Notice of Award with $0 available until we can verify your identity. You will receive a Request for Identify Verification (DE 1326C) and need to respond with two types of identity documents.
  • Wages: We compare the information you provide on your application with the wages your employer reports to us. If you have wages from a W2 and 1099, we need to review your claim to determine if you qualify for regular Unemployment Insurance or a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claim.
  • Application Errors: Your benefit amount is based on the information you give us. If you don’t include all of your employment history information over the last 18 months, or the date that your employment was impacted, we will need to review your claim. If you believe you made an error, do not file for unemployment again.

To change your claim:

  • Write what needs to be corrected on your Notice of Award and mail it to the EDD address on the notice.
  • Visit Ask EDD to request to backdate your claim if you think it has the wrong start date. Select Unemployment Insurance Benefits, then Claims Questions, then Backdate the Effective Date of my UI Claim Due to COVID-19.
  • In your UI Online account, select Contact Us to request a change.  
  • Call the UI Customer Service line at 1-800-300-5616, available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Pacific time), seven days a week, except state holidays.

The best way to reopen a claim is by logging in to your Benefits Program Online account and using UI Online. If you certified for benefits within the last 120 days, you can continue certifying on your current claim. You don’t need to certify for weeks you worked, select the week you became unemployed or had your hours reduced.

If it has been more than 120 days, you can reopen an unemployment claim online, by phone, or by mail. View UI Online: Reopen your claim (YouTube) to learn more. Reopening a claim online is a shorter process than the original application for benefits. In most cases, we can automatically reopen a claim within a few days to a week.

You must be able to and available for work to collect benefits. If you don’t meet this requirement, we will follow up with you to see if you’re eligible. Once your claim is reopened, you must certify every two weeks to receive benefits.

Some of the most common status updates are:

  • Paid – You met all eligibility requirements for receiving payment.
  • Pending – There may be an issue with your responses to the certification questions. We must review your certification. For more information, visit Claim Status: Pending Payment.
  • Disqualified – You are not eligible for payment for this week. You will receive a Notice of Determination in the mail that will explain the reason and information to appeal if you disagree with the disqualification.
  • Excessive Earnings – No benefits are paid for this week because your reported earnings, after the first $25 or 25 percent deduction, are more than your weekly benefit amount.
  • False Statement Penalty Week – No benefits are paid because this week will be applied to a false statement penalty. The penalty was most likely based on past unemployment. For example, if you returned to work but did not notify the EDD and continued to collect benefits at the same time. For more information, visit Overpayments and Penalties.

The following are some reasons for a Pending or Not Paid status:

  • Able and available to work – If you said you were not able or available to work when you certified, you may not be eligible for benefits that week. Even if you are not eligible for benefits one week, you still may be eligible other weeks, so you should continue to certify.
  • Earnings – If you earned too much in a week, you may not be eligible for benefits that week. When certifying for regular UI benefits, you must report total earnings for the week you worked. The first $25 or 25% of your wages, whichever is more, will not be deducted from your benefit amount, but the rest will.
  • Suitable work – If you said you refused any work when you certified, we must schedule a phone interview to ask why. We will also contact the employer that offered you the job. If you refused to return to your job or other suitable work without good cause, you may not be eligible for benefits. To learn more about good cause, refer to Returning to Work.

If we need to confirm your eligibility for unemployment, we will schedule a phone interview with you and may contact your employer. For more information, visit Claim Status: Pending Payment.

If you do not receive a call from the EDD at your scheduled appointment time, we may have canceled your appointment because we confirmed your eligibility or resolved the issue before your interview. Check UI Online for your current payment status.

We may have canceled your appointment because we confirmed your eligibility or resolved the issue before your interview. If your appointment has been canceled, it will no longer display in UI Online. Check UI Online for your current payment status.

Certify for Benefits

Certifying is answering basic questions every two weeks that tells us you’re still unemployed and eligible to continue receiving payments. It is required to receive unemployment. You will receive an email and a reminder on your UI Online account homepage when you log in if there are weeks you need to certify for.

For more information, and to learn how to start certifying, refer to Step 2 in Unemployment Claims. We also have video tutorials in four different languages to help you complete this legally required step so you can keep collecting unemployment benefits.

Note: If you have not looked for work, you will still be paid benefits for that week if you meet all other eligibility requirements.

If you returned to work or earned money, you must report that income. How you report the income when you certify for benefits depends on if you receive regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.

  • Regular UI: If you return to work, report your gross (total) earnings for the week you worked, not when you were paid.
  • Airline workers: If you are still attached to your employer, receiving pay, and accruing benefits, the pay must be reported in the week in which the payment applies.
  • PUA: How you report your income is different for 1099 wages (self-employment income) and W-2 wages.
    • If you received 1099 wages, report your gross (total) earnings in the week you received payment, no matter when you worked. If you worked or performed a self-employment service, but you were not paid, do not report any income that week.
    • If you received W2 wages, report your income for the weeks you worked, not when you were paid.

Once reported, we will deduct part of the gross income from your weekly payments. The first $25 or 25 percent of your income (whichever is greater) will not be deducted.

For example, if you earned $75 in a week, we will deduct $50 from your weekly payment because the first $25 does not apply. If you earned $400 in a week, we will deduct $300 from your weekly payment because the first $100 (25 percent) does not apply.

Answer the question truthfully. Due to the impact of COVID-19, we have made a temporary exception to the usual work search requirement.

If you answer “No” to the question about looking for work, you will still be paid benefits for that week if you meet all other eligibility requirements.

Benefit Extensions

If you have used all benefits on your regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim or your claim has expired, you may be eligible for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) extension. If you use all benefits in your PEUC extension, you may qualify for a Federal-State Extended Duration (FED-ED) extension.

Review the Unemployment Benefit Programs Flowchart (PDF) for information about extension benefits that may be available to you.

Note: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims are not eligible for a PEUC or FED-ED extension.

With the launch of the FED-ED extension, you may now receive up to 99 weeks of benefits including regular Unemployment Insurance (up to 26 weeks), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (up to 53 weeks), and the FED-ED extension (up to 20 weeks). The number of weeks depends on your specific eligibility, when you exhaust your claim, and how much time is left to collect PEUC or FED-ED benefits before those programs end.

Yes, if you are attending school or training, you may still be eligible for an extension. You must meet all Unemployment Insurance eligibility requirements to receive benefits.

If you were receiving benefits on a California Training Benefit Training Extension claim, we stopped that claim and automatically transferred you to a PEUC claim. After you collect all of the benefits on the PEUC extension or PEUC ends, we will automatically consider you for a FED-ED extension.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is a federal extension for people who have used all available benefits on their regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim, or whose benefit year on their regular UI claim has expired.

To qualify for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), your claim must have started on July 8, 2018, or after. Depending on when you filed your unemployment claim and if it has expired, you may need to reapply for unemployment.

Learn more about federal assistance.

Your PEUC payments will be the same as the weekly benefit amount from your regular UI claim. You will be paid in the same way that you were paid for your UI claim.

If you use all your PEUC benefits or reach the extension end date, you may qualify for a FED-ED extension if the FED-ED extension is still available.

FED–ED

The Federal-State Extended Duration (FED-ED) provides up to 20 weeks of additional benefits for people who used all of their unemployment benefits during a period of high unemployment.

If you are eligible, we will automatically file your Federal-State Extended Duration (FED-ED) extension after you collect all benefits on the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extension or after that extension ends, if the FED-ED extension is still available. You will receive a notice in the mail after the FED-ED extension is filed and you can also check your UI Online account for updates. There is no waiting period for FED-ED benefits.

For more information, including eligibility requirements, visit FED-ED Extension.

Your FED-ED payments will be the same as the weekly benefit amount from your regular UI claim. You will be paid in the same way that you were paid for your UI claim.

The current FED-ED allows extended benefits for up to 20 weeks. The maximum amount of extended benefits depends on your prior regular UI claim and your eligibility. For details, visit FED-ED Extension.

After your extension is filed, you will receive a notice confirming your claim and will need to certify for benefit payments. You can also check your UI Online account for updates. Certifying is answering basic questions every two weeks that tells us you’re still unemployed and eligible to continue receiving payments.

The fastest way to certify for benefits is in UI Online. You can also certify by mail. Unlike regular UI claims, you will not be able to certify for the FED-ED extension using EDD Tele-CertSM.

If you use all your FED-ED benefits or reach the end date, you may qualify for regular UI claim if you have earned enough in wages since your last regular claim. You can file a new claim in UI Online. At this time, there is no end date for FED-ED benefits.

Returning to Work

If you go back to work part time, you must report earnings when you certify for benefits. Earnings include wages, paid sick time, vacation pay, and holiday pay and can be deducted from your unemployment payments.

The first $25 or 25 percent of your income (whichever is greater) will not be deducted. For example, if you earned $75 in a week, we will deduct $50 from your weekly payment because the first $25 does not apply. If you earned $400 in a week, we will deduct $300 from your weekly payment because the first $100 (25 percent) does not apply.

If you return to work full time, you will no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits.

When you certify for your unemployment benefits, you will be asked if you refused any work. Select “Yes” for that question, and we will need to schedule an eligibility interview. During that interview, you will be able to give us the facts about why you turned down the offer of employment.

You are required to accept “suitable” work, which is work that offers wages most would earn based on similar skills and type of work in your area. But, you may have good cause to refuse work if the wages, hours, or other working conditions are “substantially less favorable” than those for similar work in your area.

For example, if you are offered a job at $20 per hour but other jobs in your area doing the same type of work at your skill level are typically paid at $30 per hour, you may have good cause to refuse the work. But, you would not have good cause if you refuse the work only because those wages are less than what you are receiving in unemployment benefits.

Generally, you are not eligible for unemployment if you refuse to accept “suitable” work when offered. We will review the degree of risk involved to your health and safety when considering if your work is “suitable.” For example, if your employer has followed the state’s requirements and government safety regulations for reopening, you may not have good cause to refuse to return to work and would not be eligible for unemployment.

You may have good cause to refuse to return to work if you are at greater personal risk based on your health. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued public health guidance (PDF) urging individuals who are over 65, immunocompromised, or have certain serious chronic health conditions (such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes) to stay at home due to “higher risk” factors.

But, you may not have good cause for refusing work if your employer allows you to telework and you still refused. In this case, you would not be eligible for unemployment benefits because there is an option available without compromising your health and safety. Another option may be a modified schedule.

Employers may have a legal obligation to accommodate certain health conditions. Review the Department of Fair Employment and Housing guidance (PDF) on what employers must do to accommodate employees with recognized disabilities.

Working from Home

Working your normal schedule remotely does not qualify you for unemployment benefits. But, you could collect some unemployment benefits if your employer reduces your work hours due to COVID-19.

Under California law, you would not qualify for unemployment if you voluntarily quit without good cause. You are presumed to have voluntarily quit with good cause unless your employer provides written notice to the EDD with facts that show otherwise. “Good cause” to quit is when the motivating reason was real, substantial, compelling, and would cause a reasonable person to quit under the same circumstances. Before you quit work, you must try to preserve your employment relationship. If you don’t, it could go against what would be good cause for quitting.

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you can show good cause for quitting. This could include:

  • Your employer has not followed industry guidance for safely reopening.
  • You have childcare or transportation problems that you cannot resolve.
  • You have a disability or condition that your employer cannot reasonably accommodate.

You can show that you tried to maintain the employment relationship by asking your employer to allow you to continue to telework, but your employer denied your request. We will evaluate your situation to determine if you had good cause to quit and if you qualify for unemployment.

School Closures and Childcare

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you have to stay home to care for your child and you:

  • Have to miss work.
  • Have to quit your job.
  • Are unemployed and can’t start a job.

Apply for benefits through UI Online and we will determine eligibility by scheduling a phone interview with you. For example, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits if your employer has allowed you to work fewer hours due to your childcare situation.

If you quit your job because you have no other options for childcare, we are required by law to determine if you have “good cause” for quitting because generally you must be able and available to work.

Disability and Paid Family Leave

No. You can file a claim for unemployment and disability benefits at the same time, but you can only collect payments under one benefit program at a time. If you are unsure which program to apply for, you can apply for both programs. We will review your eligibility for each program.

Yes. If your employer shuts down operations or reduces hours for workers while you are on your disability claim, you can apply for unemployment benefits at that time. We will help decide the start of your unemployment claim, as long as you meet all other eligibility requirements.

Yes. If you or a family member gets sick while you are on an unemployment claim, you can apply for disability or Paid Family Leave benefits, which may have a higher benefit amount if you are eligible. You must have a medical certification for the illness or need for caregiving. If you are approved for a Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave claim, your unemployment claim will be put on hold. If you use all your disability benefits but are still unemployed, you can then collect the rest of your unemployment benefits as long as you are eligible. You will need to reopen your unemployment claim.

Visit Disability and Paid Family Leave FAQs for more information.