COVID-19: Unemployment Claims

Last updated: 09/11/2020 | Español | COVID-19 Main Page | COVID-19 FAQs

After you file a claim for unemployment benefits, follow these steps to make sure you get your benefit payments.

It takes at least three weeks to process a claim and issue payment to most eligible workers. With the large amount of claims we are processing, there may be delays. We appreciate your patience.

Step 1 – Look for Important Claim Information

You should receive an email from the EDD with the subject “New Online Account Created.” That means your registration was automatically completed in UI OnlineSM so you can move to Step 2 and certify for your first benefit payment.

If you did not get an email and have not filed an unemployment claim in the past several years, you will receive a letter in the mail with your EDD Customer Account Number. You must have this to set up your UI Online account so you can move to Step 2.

Note: You will receive important claim information in the mail about two weeks after you apply. This includes if you are eligible for benefits and, if so, what you could receive in weekly payments. To estimate your weekly benefit amount, use our UI benefit calculator.

Provide More Information if Needed

You may get notice in the mail that asks for more information to process your claim. If you received an award notice that shows $0 in wages, you may still qualify for benefits. Situations that take more time to resolve include:

If we are unable to verify your identity with our records, we’ll mail you a request to confirm your identity. You have 10 calendar days from the mail date to send us two forms of identity documents from the list of Acceptable Documents for Identity Verification (DE 1326CD) (PDF).

Once we verify your identity, you’ll receive a notice of your eligibility and, if eligible, what you could receive in weekly payments.

Sometimes this can happen if:

  • We have no record or only a partial record of your wages.
  • You were misclassified by your employer as an independent contractor instead of an employee.
  • Your employer accidentally reported wage information incorrectly to us.

If you believe our record of your wages isn’t accurate, you can contact us to investigate. The best way to request an investigation is to log in to your UI Online account and select Contact Us. Give a brief summary of why you disagree with the notice and information about your wages. You can also correct the wages on the award notice and send copies of your W-2, Form 1099, or a paycheck stub to the address on the front of the notice.

We will follow up with you and your employer for any details needed to make a determination. It typically takes us a couple of weeks to collect the information, investigate, and notify you of your eligibility for benefits. You will receive a call from the EDD. Return any messages quickly so we can determine if you qualify for benefits.

If you’re self-employed or an independent contractor and have not contributed to the state unemployment fund, you may still qualify for benefits with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Claim Changes

If you need 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 Claim 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 Claims Support line at 1-800-300-5616, available from 8 a.m. to 12 noon (Pacific time), Monday through Friday, except state holidays.

Step 2 – Certify for Benefits

After you complete Step 1, you must “certify” for your first benefit payment. Certifying is answering basic questions every two weeks that tells us you’re still unemployed and eligible to continue receiving payments.

Before you complete your certification, review the certifying process (PDF) so you can understand the questions and answer them correctly. Answering questions incorrectly can delay your claim.

Note: One of the questions asks if you're looking for work. Answer truthfully. Due to the impact of COVID-19, we have made a temporary exception for the work search requirement. If you answer “No” to the question about looking for work, you will still be paid benefits if you meet all other eligibility requirements.

The fastest way to certify is in UI Online. To start certifying for benefits:

  1. Log in to your UI Online account.
  2. If prompted, enter your EDD Customer Account Number you received in the mail to complete registration in UI Online.
  3. Follow instructions to certify for your benefits.

Note: If you have a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Federal-State Extended Duration claim, you can only certify online or by mail. You cannot use EDD Tele-CertSM to certify.

Every two weeks, you will need to certify that you are unemployed and eligible to continue receiving benefit payments.

Your claim can be delayed if you answer questions incorrectly or do not answer our calls when we try to contact you. The following are some examples:

Too Sick to Work

The first question on your certification form asks, “Were you too sick or injured to work?” Answer based on your own health and availability to work. You must be well enough to work every day of the week to collect unemployment benefits. We noticed some people answered “Yes” for the whole week, which would disqualify them for benefits. When we followed up, they confirmed they weren’t sick themselves, but that people are sick due to the coronavirus.

Able and Available

The second question asks, “Was there any reason (other than sickness or injury) that you could not have accepted full-time work each workday?” You must be available for work to collect benefits. Being available means you are ready and willing to accept work even though businesses may still be closed because of COVID-19. If you are able and available to work, answer “No” to this question.

If you are not available or willing to accept suitable work, you could be disqualified for benefits, unless you have good cause. Some examples of good cause include having no childcare (and you have tried other options including asking for a different work schedule), being over 65, or having a serious health condition (PDF).

Not Answering EDD Calls

If there is an eligibility issue on your certification, we may schedule a determination interview with you. You will be notified of the date and time by mail and will receive sample questions we may ask. Be ready to accept a call during the time listed on the notice. Your caller ID may show “St of CA EDD” or the UI call center numbers 1-833-978-2511 or 1-800-300-5616. We will identify ourselves as an EDD representative and will know your EDD Customer Account Number.

Benefit Payments

Usually, it will take about a week after you certify to receive your first benefit payment. With the large amount of claims we are processing, there may be delays. If you chose to receive payments on an EDD Debit CardSM, Bank of America will mail you a card once payments are available.

If you received Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, or Paid Family Leave benefits on an EDD Debit Card in the last three years, you will receive your benefit payments on that same card. If your card has expired, a new card will automatically be sent to you once funds are available. If you received a card before 2015, you must request a new one. For more information, including how to replace a lost card, visit EDD Debit Card.

Payment information is updated daily and is available through your UI Online account or by calling the UI Self-Service Phone Line at 1-866-333-4606.

Reporting Income

If you returned to work part-time or earned money, you must report that income when you certify. How you report the income depends on if you receive regular Unemployment Insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.

  • Regular Unemployment Insurance: If you return to work, report your gross (total) earnings for the week you worked, not when you were paid.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: 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.

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

Step 3 – Check Your UI Online Account

Log in to your UI Online account to check for updates. This includes your benefit payments and when it’s time to certify for your next two weeks of benefits.

Once you receive your EDD Debit Card, payments should be posted to your card about three days after we receive your certification. Benefit payments by check will take a few more days to arrive in the mail.