Updated: 2021-03-11 by
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.
Generally, your weekly benefit in California will be one twenty-sixth of your earnings in the highest paid quarter of the base period. If your earnings are lower, however, this might vary. You can look up how much you will receive in the Unemployment Insurance Benefit Table.Currently, the most you can receive under California law each week is $450 per week; the minimum amount you can receive is $40 per week. These limits are adjusted from time to time for inflation.
If You Earn Money While Collecting Unemployment Benefits
Once you get a new job that pays more than you are receiving in unemployment, you will no longer be eligible to receive benefits. But what if you are only able to pick up odd jobs and small amounts of work here and there? As long as you don’t earn too much from occasional work, you will still be eligible for unemployment benefits.
In most states, as long as you earn less than your weekly benefit amount (or a bit more, in some states), you can still collect unemployment benefits. However, your benefits will be reduced by what you earn. A certain amount of what you earn will be disregarded: You will be able to keep it, and it won’t be subtracted from your benefit amount. Although this amount is generally small, this set-aside is intended to create an incentive for people to work, rather than just collecting unemployment benefits.
The amount that is disregarded when calculating your partial unemployment benefit is either a set dollar amount or a percentage of your usual weekly benefit. Contact the California Employment Development Department to find out how much you can earn without jeopardizing your benefits.
Benefits Are Taxable
Believe it or not, unemployment benefits usually count as taxable income, at least under federal law. You will have to declare the full amount you receive and, if your total income is high enough, pay taxes on your benefits.
The American Rescue Plan (which became law on March 11, 2021) waives federal income tax on the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020. (Married couples filing jointly don't have to pay tax on the first $20,400 in unemployment benefits.) However, this law currently applies only to the 2020 tax year.
If you wish, you can ask California to withhold 10% of your weekly check for federal income tax. To make this request, file Form W4-V, Voluntary Withholding Request.
Although some states don’t tax unemployment benefits, most do.
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Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: Unemployment Benefits for Contractors, Gig Workers, and Self-Employed Workers in California
Find out whether you are eligible for coronavirus unemployment benefits, and how much you will get in California.
Find out how many weeks of unemployment benefits are available in California; pandemic emergency unemployment compensation is covered, too.
Learn the four requirements for continuing to receive unemployment benefits in California and how and where to apply for weekly unemployment benefits.