Due to harsh economic times, the number of unemployed Californians is on the rise. As noted in the Business section of the Los Angeles Times on February 28, 2009, more than 1 in 10 workers were unemployed and the state registered its highest jobless rate since June 1983.
The number of claims submitted for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits is on the rise. California’s unemployment rate jumped to 11.2% in March 2009. Being amongst those published statistics, I know all too well how frustrating and tedious the process of applying for benefits can be.
So you find yourself in the same situation, being notified that you too will be out of work, what do you do? Knowing what steps to follow helps ease the uncertainty of the process. Let’s begin!
First a quick overview:
The Employment Development Department (EDD) offers Unemployment Insurance (UI) to unemployed Californians. This is an insurance program that was paid for by your employer. It helps by providing an income to its employees when they have been displaced or have their hours cut, due to a reduction in the work force and at no fault of their own.
In order to be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must file a claim and be deemed eligible. There is a one week waiting period, which is the first week after you file your claim and benefits are not paid for that week, so it is important to file your UI claim immediately – no sooner than the first days after your circumstances change.
The method used to calculate your benefits can be a little tricky to understand. Benefits are determined by establishing a Base Period for your claim. A Base Period is a 12-month period of time broken down by four quarters consisting of three months in each quarter, and begins the previous quarter. Let’s say for example that your claim begins in January through March of 2008, the 12-month period of earnings used to calculate your benefit amount would be October 2007 through September 2008. From those calculated earnings, which begins the benefit amount you are eligible to receive your weekly rate is calculated and a weekly rate is established.
There are several options available to you for filing a UI claim. If you have access to a computer, the preferred method is filing on-line using the eApply4UI website. It is the simplest method as it is available 24 hours a day and provides walk through instructions. From the Web type in https://eapply4ui.edd.ca.gov, there you will answer a series of personal questions, and enter information about your employer and the dates and reason you are no longer employed.
You may also file by contacting the EDD Call Center by calling their toll-free number at 1-800-300-5616. The customer service representatives will assist you in filing your UI claim and can answer questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pacific Standard Time. Due to the overwhelming number of calls, it is recommended that you call Wednesday through Friday. Be prepared to allot sufficient time, as this method of filing does take longer.
In order to determine your eligibility to receive benefits, you will be asked a series a questions, information about your past employers and the reason you are out of work. To ensure fast service, you should have the following information ready and available to you before you file your claim:
1) Your name, address, telephone number, birth date and social security number (SSN).
2) Your last employer’s name, address, telephone number and the last date worked.
3) The specific reason you are no longer working.
4) Your citizenship status and if applicable, your alien registration number.
5) Your driver’s license number or state issued identification card number.
6) Your past work records for the past 18 months, including the names and addresses of all of your employers and the dates worked.
Because errors in your application will result in a delay of your benefits, it is important to answer all questions accurately.
In order for your claim to be valid, you must have earned at least $1,300 in wage earnings in at least one quarter of your established base period or at least $900 in the highest quarter. Your total base period earnings must be 1.25 times your high quarter earnings. The quarter in which you received the highest wages will determine your Weekly Benefit amount and the Maximum Benefit Amount you are eligible for is a standard 26 weeks or one-half of your total Base Period wages, whichever is greater.
Once you file and eligibility is determined, you will receive in the mail a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award. This award notice will provide you with pertinent information about your claim, such as the beginning and ending dates of claim and your weekly benefit amount. This notice should be retained in a safe place, as you may be required to refer back to it, or present it upon request.
Several recent changes in federal legislation enacted in July and November 2008 provides extended benefits for workers who have exhausted their regular UI benefits in California. In addition, legislation enacted additional extensions in high unemployment states, which includes California. Eligible workers can now receive a total of 33 additional weeks of extended benefits.
This extension does not mean however that you get something for nothing. Each week that you receive benefits you are required to complete the Continued Claim form and mail it back to the EDD. You must attest that you have looked for work and if requested, provide the company name, address, contact and date you applied. Failure to perform the required work search, or providing false information on your Continued Claim form, can be cause for disqualification and an imposed penalty to withhold and deny your benefits is assessed. This penalty can range in a denial of your benefits from 2 to 23 weeks. Furthermore, it is illegal to willfully make false statement or knowingly fail to report all facts when receiving benefits. Therefore, making a false statement or withholding information can be deemed a felony. Being convicted under Section 2101 of the Unemployment Insurance Code, you will lose your rights to collect benefits for 52 weeks and the penalty may include both fines and criminal prosecution.
Be honest – the consequences aren’t worth it!