Coronavirus
- Coronavirus Unemployment Updates - (Coronavirus)
How to Apply
- How to Apply for Unemployment - (How to Apply)
Eligibility
- Unemployment Benefits Eligibility & Amounts - (Eligibility)
Local Resources
- Local Unemployment Benefits Resources - (Local Resources)
Problems
- Handling Unemployment Problems - (Problems)
- Working With a Lawyer - (Lawyers)
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Learn about the self-help resources available to you at the San Bernardino County Job Centers.

Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits No Longer Available

As of mid-August 2021, more than 11 million people were collecting some form of unemployment. This figure included the millions of employees who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and the steps state and local governments have taken to contain it. It included millions of gig workers, contractors, and self-employed people who were collecting unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. And, it included millions who were receiving temporary federal benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program because they were still unemployed when their state benefits ran out. 

Expired Federal Pandemic Unemployment Programs 

However, these federal programs ended on September 6, 2021. In some states, they ended even earlier: About half the states decided to stop participating in these programs before they expired.

For weeks of unemployment beginning on or after September 6, 2021, these benefits will no longer be available. That means:

  • Benefits will no longer be available to the millions of gig workers, contractors, and freelancers who were receiving unemployment through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 
  • Benefits will no longer be available through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which offered additional benefits to those who were still unemployed when they used up their state benefits. 
  • Benefits will be reduced for those who were receiving Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, a program that offered $300 extra per week to those collecting unemployment. 

All told, experts estimate that more than seven million people lost their benefits on Labor Day, 2021. More than two million more saw their benefits cut by $300 per week. 

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How Do I Apply for Unemployment Benefits in Ontario, CA?

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, some states have imposed restrictions on people gathering in public locations. This may affect your ability to access physical offices of the the California Employment Development Department in person. Check California's unemployment insurance agency website for more information. And, read on to find out how you can file for unemployment insurance benefits in California online or by phone.

Enhanced unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) ended on September 6, 2021, and are no longer provided.

California's unemployment insurance agency website gives you the information you need to apply for unemployment insurance in California. The California Employment Development Department’s website tells you:

  • What information you’ll need on hand to apply for unemployment insurance benefits
  • How to apply online for unemployment insurance benefits
  • more...  

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Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in California?

You qualify for unemployment benefits in California if you meet two basic requirements:

  • you must have earned at least a minimum amount (and/or worked a certain amount of time) before you lost your job, and
  • you must be out of work through no fault of your own.

If you meet these two qualifications when you apply, you will likely be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. (To keep receiving benefits after you are found eligible, you will also have to meet your state’s job search requirements; to learn more, see What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in California?)

Gig workers, freelancers, and contractors are no longer eligible for benefits. In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress greatly expanded eligibility for unemployment. Among other things, these programs provided benefits to gig workers and other contract workers who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. However, these programs expired in every state on September 6, 2021; about half the states cut off these benefits even earlier. 

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Three Things You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits in California

This site provides clear, accurate information on collecting unemployment benefits in California, including:

Here are three things to keep in mind as you get started:

1. You may be eligible for benefits even if you quit, you were fired for cause, or you are still working part-time.

Some people mistakenly believe that unemployment is available only to employees who are laid off. However, you don't have to lose your job in a layoff to qualify for benefits. The key question is whether you are out of work without fault on your part. So, if you were forced to quit your job in lieu of being fired, or you were fired because you don't have the necessary skills for your job, you could still be eligible for benefits. 

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COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits in California FAQ

1. Are coronavirus unemployment benefits still available?

2. How do I apply for unemployment if I am out of work due to COVID-19?

3. Can self-employed people and gig workers who have lost work due to COVID-19 collect unemployment?

4. How much will I get in unemployment benefits if I am unemployed due to COVID-19?

5. How long will my benefits last if I am unemployed because of COVID-19?

6. Can I collect unemployment if I was furloughed due to COVID-19?

7. Where can I find the latest information on how California is dealing with unemployment claims relating to coronavirus?

1. Are coronavirus unemployment benefits still available?

As of September 6, 2021, the answer is no. The special pandemic programs Congress created to help those who have lost work due to COVID-19 (and the steps state and local governments have taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus) have now expired. These programs included:

    • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which made benefits available to those who wouldn't qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, including the self-employed, gig workers, those who have already used up their state benefits, and those who don't meet the work history eligibility requirement in their state. 
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How Much Will I Collect in Unemployment Benefits in California?

In California, you can earn up to $450 per week in unemployment benefits under state law. 

Although additional money ($300 extra per week) was available under the temporary Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, that program expired on September 6, 2021 (or earlier, in states that cut off these benefits before the program ended). For weeks of unemployment starting on September 6, you will not receive these additional benefits. 

Every state has its own rules for calculating unemployment benefits. Typically, the amount you receive each week is based on your earnings when you were employed. After all, unemployment benefits are intended to replace some of the income you lost along with your job, and tide you over until you find new work.

Calculating Your Benefit Amount

Your weekly unemployment benefit amount depends on your earnings during the base period.

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How Long Will My Unemployment Benefits Last in California?

In California, you can receive unemployment benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks under state law. 

A temporary federal program (the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program) allowed claimants to keep collecting benefits after their state benefits ran out. However, that program expired on September 6, 2021 (or earlier, in states that decided to cut these benefits off before the program ended). Benefits will no longer be available under this program for weeks of unemployment starting on September 6.

In times of high unemployment, additional weeks of benefits may be available under a different federal program, the Extended Benefits program (see below).

Each state sets its own rules for how long unemployment benefits last. Until quite recently, virtually all states offered a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. In the last five or six years, however, some states have changed their rules on duration of benefits (in most cases, to offer benefits for a shorter period of time).

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What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in California?

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, federal and state governments have made changes to their unemployment programs, to ensure that more people who are out of work receive benefits more quickly. These changes may affect waiting periods, job search requirements, and availability of benefits to those who are still working part time. These changes used to include the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act, which greatly expanded the nation's unemployment compensation program, including continuation of benefits. But, the CARES Act ended on September 6, 2021, and the expanded benefits are no longer provided .

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Making Weekly Unemployment Benefit Claims in California

Approval of your initial claim for unemployment benefits is just the beginning of the unemployment compensation process for you. You need to file weekly claims (in most states; some states require bi-weekly filings) with California Employment Development Department to keep receiving benefit payments. The California Employment Development Department describes the weekly claim-filing requirements in its Unemployment Insurance: A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services. The California agency website also has instructions on how to file for weekly benefits.



Contacting the California Employment Development Department

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, some states are imposing restrictions on people gathering in public locations. This may affect your ability to access physical offices of the the California Employment Development Department in person. Check California's unemployment insurance agency website for more information. In some states, you can even contact the unemployment agency by snail mail. You can find the contact information for the California Employment Development Department in Unemployment Insurance: A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services. The handbook lists the addresses and phone numbers to reach the California Employment Development Department if you have questions or you want to follow up on your claim for unemployment benefits.



Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits If I Was Wrongfully Terminated?

In order to collect unemployment, you must meet two basic requirements. First, you must have earned at least a minimum amount, set by state law, in the time before you lost your job. Second, you must be out of work through no fault of your own. For more information about these requirements, see Who is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in California?

If you lose your job in a layoff, reduction-in-force (RIF), or downsizing, you will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. But, these are not the only ways that employees lose their jobs. Your eligibility for benefits depends upon the reason you become unemployed. 

If You Were Fired for Misconduct

Generally-speaking, if you are terminated, you can collect unemployment insurance benefits in California. But, there is an exception to that general rule in California:

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Can I Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in California?

If the California Employment Development Department denies you unemployment insurance benefits, you can appeal. After you file your initial claim for unemployment benefits, the California Employment Development Department will send you a written determination of your eligibility for benefits and, if it finds you eligible, how much you will receive in benefits. But, if the California Employment Development Department finds that you are not eligible for benefits or grants you benefits in a lower amount than you believe you are entitled to, you can appeal that decision. And, if the California Employment Development Department finds you eligible to receive benefits, your ex-employer can appeal that decision.

If you want to appeal the California Employment Development Department decision, check the California Employment Development Department website and handbook for:

  • Any forms and instructions for filing your appeal
  • The deadline for filing your appeal
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Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Unemployment Benefits in California?

Having your own lawyer to represent you in the unemployment insurance benefits process in California will level the playing field for you—because your ex-employer will be represented. Your ex-employer is almost certainly going to have a lawyer or two offering guidance through the California unemployment process. This legal advice can give your ex-employer an edge over you in the process, especially if they intend to challenge your claim for benefits. Your own lawyer can:

  • Help you figure out if you are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits in California
  • Tell you if your employer’s stated reason for terminating you is valid and will bar benefits
  • Guide you through California’s unemployment insurance benefits claim process
  • Advise you on how to keep receiving unemployment insurance benefits, and
  • Assist you if you need to appeal a denial of unemployment insurance benefits by the California Employment Development Department

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How Can I Find a Good Unemployment Lawyer in California?

There are several ways to find a good lawyer to help with your unemployment claim in California. The best way to find a lawyer is always through a referral from someone you know. Ask family members, friends, and other professionals you work with whether they can recommend a good employment lawyer. 

Lawyers specialize, so your friend’s divorce lawyer won’t be the right person to handle your unemployment appeal. However, lawyers also know other lawyers, so don’t hesitate to ask a well-recommended lawyer in a different field for an employment lawyer referral. 

If you can’t find a lawyer through personal referrals, here are a couple of other options: 

Directories of Ontario, California Unemployment Attorneys

Here are a few selected websites that offer directories of employment attorneys that serve Ontario, California. Not all attorneys list on all directories, so we offer a choice here to let users access the widest possible selection of Ontario, California unemployment lawyers. 

Lawyer Referral Services in California

Check with the California Bar Association for information about lawyer referral services in Ontario, California. A lawyer referral service matches potential clients with attorneys who specialize in that area of law, such as wrongful termination or unemployment appeals. 

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Paying an Unemployment Lawyer in California

If you may be (or already have been) denied unemployment benefits in California, you may be wondering whether you need a lawyer -- and whether you can afford to hire a lawyer to help with your unemployment case. (If you're wondering what a lawyer can do for you, check out Five Ways an Unemployment Lawyer Can Help You.) It all depends on your financial situation and how (and how much) the attorney charges. In some situations, an unemployment attorney may be willing to offer you a contingency fee arrangement. This means the lawyer gets paid only if you win, out of the money you receive as a settlement or award. 

Below, we explain some typical attorney fee arrangements in unemployment cases. 

Initial Consultation

Your first step in choosing an attorney – and deciding whether it makes sense to fight your employer in an unemployment claim, appeal, or lawsuit – is an initial consultation. The initial consultation provides you and the attorney an opportunity to decide whether and how you will work together. 

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Five Ways an Unemployment Lawyer Can Help You in California

If you have a straightforward unemployment claim, you will likely be able to file for unemployment benefits on your own, without any help from a lawyer. Your claim is relatively simple if you can easily meet the California earnings requirements to qualify for benefits, and you and your employer agree that you lost your job through no fault of your own (for example, because you were laid off or had to quit when your military spouse was transferred to another state).

But if your case is more complicated, it might make sense to consult with or hire an unemployment lawyer to represent you. An unemployment lawyer can help you if you are facing any of the situations described below.

1. Your Employer Claims You Were Fired for Misconduct

You may be disqualified from receiving benefits if you were fired for job-related misconduct. California defines misconduct narrowly. All four of the following statements must be true for the Employment Development Department to conclude that you were fired for misconduct:

  • You must owe a material duty to your employer. 
  • You must have committed a substantial breach of that duty. 
  • Your breach must show a wilful or wanton disregard of that duty. 
  • Your breach must disregard the employer's interests and injure or tend to injure the employer's interests.

For example, it is not enough for an employer to state that you were fired for being absent. The Employment Development Department will consider whether you had permission to be absent, whether you had a compelling reason to be absent, and whether you had received prior warnings or reprimands. 

 

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About Unemployment Benefits By Zip Code

Here at Legal Consumer, we want to help people find answers to everyday legal questions about important topics like bankruptcy, Obamacare, inheritance, and more. 

Now, we’ve turned our attention to employment law. Because, while almost everyone has (or has had) a job, it can be surprisingly tough to get good, high-quality local information about workplace rights. 

We'll be adding new topics over time, but we’ve started with unemployment benefits. If you’ve recently lost your job, unemployment benefits can be a real lifesaver. They replace some of your income, temporarily, while you look for a new job. But not everyone qualifies for benefits, and the amount and duration of benefits can vary a lot from state to state. 

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