The California Employment Development Department (EDD) determines your weekly benefit amount by dividing your earnings for the highest paid quarter of the base period by 26, up to a maximum of $450 per week.
Benefits are available for up to 26 weeks. If you are still unemployed when your regular state benefits run out, you may be eligible for Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and/or state extended benefits. (See Nolo's article Unemployment Benefits: How Much Will You Get -- and For How Long? for general information on these temporary programs.) These additional programs -- which were enacted to help those who became unemployed during the recession that began in 2008 -- provide additional weeks of benefits, depending on when you first became unemployed. These additional benefits are temporary, and have been subject to much Congressional debate. Also, the availability of certain benefits depends on the current unemployment rate in the state; although filers were once eligible for up to 99 total weeks of benefits, that number declined in May 2012, when California's unemployment rate didn't rise sufficiently to maintain the state's eligibility for the most generous extensions. As of December 2013, the maximum is 63 weeks. Unless Congress acts to extend the EUC program, it will expire at the end of 2013. Contact the EDD to find out which programs are in place when you apply for benefits (you can find contact information below).
How to File a Claim for Unemployment Benefits in California
You may file your claim for unemployment benefits online, by phone, by fax, or by mail. You can find online filing information and contact information at www.edd.ca.gov.
Once it receives your application, the EDD will send you some documents, including a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award indicating how much you will receive if you are found eligible for benefits (despite the title of this notice, it does not mean you have qualified for benefits yet).
If you were fired or quit your job, the EDD may schedule a telephone interview to determine your eligibility for benefits. If you are found eligible, the EDD will begin sending you your benefits checks and claim forms, which you will receive (and must return) every two weeks.
How to Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in California
If your claim for unemployment is denied, you will receive a Notice of Determination informing you of the decision. You may appeal the decision -- using the appeal form included with the Notice, or simply by writing a letter -- within 20 days after the date the Notice was mailed to you. After receiving your appeal request, the EDD will schedule a hearing before an administrative law judge, who will decide on your case and mail the decision to you.
If you disagree with the decision after the hearing, you may appeal it to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Members of the Board will review the evidence from your original hearing and issue a written decision. If you disagree with this decision, you may file an appeal in court in the California Superior Court.
The EDD provides comprehensive information on the unemployment process at its website, www.edd.ca.gov (select "Unemployment" to apply for benefits online, find out current eligibility requirements and benefit amounts, learn about the appeals process, and much more). You can also find helpful factsheets and information about free legal help with unemployment questions and disputes at the website of the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco's Employment Law Center, www.las-elc.org.
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