The following provides current information about the efforts of the Employment Development Department (EDD) to implement the unemployment provisions of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Because developments are occurring so quickly, we encourage you to check for updates on the EDD Coronavirus 2020 webpage.
After you file a claim for unemployment benefits, follow these steps outlined on the EDD website to make sure you get your benefit payments.
What changes did the CARES Act make to Unemployment Insurance?
The CARES Act made several significant changes to the traditional Unemployment Insurance program. More specifically, it:
- Increased unemployment insurance by increasing benefits by $600 per week
The EDD is providing the extra $600 per week benefit payment paid by the federal government to workers collecting regular UI benefits. This program is available from March 2 – July 25, 2020. The basic unemployment benefit provided by EDD, plus $600 per week, would replace a large percentage of wages for many California workers.
It always takes about three (3) weeks for most Californians to receive their first benefit payment if found eligible, with the exception primarily of wage and identity issues. However, after that first benefit payment, unemployed workers will have to answer basic certification questions every two weeks to receive bi-weekly payments as long as they remain eligible.
- Extended unemployment benefits by 13 weeks
The EDD is in the process of implementing a new 13-week federal extension of unemployment insurance benefits called the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. This takes effect when an unemployed worker runs out of all of the benefits associated with their regular state-administered unemployment claim. In California, regular state benefit payments can last for up to 26 weeks within a one-year time frame.
- Expanded access by allowing part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers to access unemployment insurance benefits.
In order to make these benefits available as quickly as possible, EDD will be rolling out the extension in two phases starting on May 27.
Phase 1 will begin on May 27. EDD will begin automatically filing PEUC claims for those who exhausted all available benefits on their claim with a benefit year that started on or after June 2, 2019 and expects the first phase to be completed in early June. These individuals will receive a notice through the mail about 5-7 days after the filing of the PEUC extension. The notice will include instructions on how to certify for extension benefit payments if you remain unemployed. Please look for updates in the Inbox of your UI online account.
Phase 2 will start in early July and EDD will begin mailing notices to those who ran out their regular UI benefits after July 2018 who are not part of the first group of those who exhausted their benefits in Phase 1. More details will be released later. However, EDD recommends that if you remain out of work apply for another unemployment insurance claim through UI Online if you have not done already done so. EDD will need to first check whether or not they would qualify for a new regular claim before an extension could be filed.
What is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program?
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is a brand new unemployment insurance program, which expands eligibility to receive such benefits to the self-employed and others impacted by the Coronavirus.
Who qualifies for the PUA Program?
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program is for those who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits, including the self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers and those who were previously on UI, but exhausted their benefits. It went into effect on April 28.
What will this program do?
This program makes those individuals eligible for UI, including the additional $600 per week and the 13- week extension of benefits when they run out of benefits associated with regular state-administered UI claims. In California, regular state benefit payments can last for up to 26 weeks within a one-year timeframe.
Specific instructions on how to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are available on the EDD website. Californians should check for updates on EDD’s website that include instructions for workers who may have already applied for benefits and were not found eligible for the regular state-administered UI program.
Second Phase of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program
Starting on May 20, EDD will increase the weekly benefit amounts that started at the minimum level of $167 per week when the program began on April 28. Based upon the total income reported for calendar year 2019, payments could go up to a maximumof $450 per week. More information will be available on the EDD soon.
EDD Call Centers
EDD operates two separate call centers to assist people with their unemployment insurance claims that for different reasons cannot be resolved online.
If the issue involves problems about filing claims, including questions about eligibility or benefits, individuals should call 1-800-300-5616. This call center is open from 8 a.m. to 12 noon (Pacific Time), Monday through Friday, except on California state holidays. Assistance is available in English and Spanish.
The other call center provides technical help to access the EDD website such as password resets. They can also provide answers to questions about how to file a claim online and general information about unemployment insurance. These EDD representatives will not have access to your claim or payment information. The hours of this call center are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Pacific Time), seven days a week, and the phone number is 1-833-978-2511.
Avoiding Delays When Filing for Unemployment Insurance & Certifying for Benefits
Why Are Unemployment Insurance Claims Denied?
Typically, there are several reasons for the denial of a UI claim:
- EDD is unable to verify the identity of the applicant and must receive documents such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport and W-2 /1099 forms to resolve this issue. Identity issues are a major problem in processing UI claims. The incorrect Social Security number is present in 25% of these cases. Incorrect birthdates are another issue too.
NOTE: Be sure to check that the Social Security Number on your W-2 or 1099 forms are accurate, as well as the information you provide to EDD when filing for unemployment insurance.
On the initial application for unemployment benefits, claimants are asked to provide any other names they might have used in their employment history. EDD verifies identity information with Social Security Administration and the DMV. If EDD is not able to match the name with the information provided by the claimant, the claim will be assigned to the identity verification process that will delay processing.
EDD reminds claimants to ensure they provide the names used for a Social Security card or driver’s license on their application
- An individual is classified as an independent contractor when they should have been classified as an employee who is then eligible for regular UI benefits.
- Claimants state on their certification form that they were too sick to work or look for work due to COVID-19. Unless you really were sick, do not answer these questions in the affirmative. This will raise eligibility questions and delay the processing of your claim. You must be well enough to work every day of the week in order to receive unemployment benefits.
You must also be available for work to receive unemployment benefits. Many people are saying that they cannot accept work because of COVID-19. In actuality, they are or would be available for work if called back by their employer or a new job opportunity became available.
How will EDD Contact Me?
EDD will make four attempts to call constituents. Two calls are made on 1 day followed by two more attempts. If EDD cannot reach the claimant, they will close out the case. The call from EDD will likely come from a blocked number; however, they are working on displaying a phone number in the future.
Therefore, answer your phone if you see a blocked number.
EDD will also be using text messages and e-mail to communicate with claimants by informing them when a claim is filed and when the first payment will be made.
Are School Employees Eligible for Unemployment Compensation?
Federal and state law do not permit school employees to be eligible for regular UI benefits during a school recess, including the summer break. The assumption is that school employees are basing their claim on school wages and their return to their job when the break is over.
Despite schools closing early this year due to the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor is requiring all states to treat this year as any other. Consequently, EDD must determine on a case-by-case basis whether employees have reasonable assurance that they will be returning to work in the fall. If not, they may be eligible for unemployment compensation.