Updated: 2020-12-13 by
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 include the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act, which greatly expands the nation's unemployment compensation program, including continuation of benefits. Keep in mind that you are entitled to an additional 53 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits under the federal CARES Act after your state benefits are exhausted if you are unemployed due to COVID-19.
Because this situation is changing daily, check the California Employment Development Department for the latest developments.
After your application for unemployment insurance benefits is approved by the California Employment Development Department, you can’t just sit back and collect benefits—you have to do certain things to stay eligible. After your initial claim for unemployment benefits is approved in California, you must:
- be unemployed or underemployed (generally, earning close to what you receive in weekly benefits)
- be able and available to work
- be actively looking for work, and
- file to continue to receive benefits.
Unemployed Or Underemployed
You have to be unemployed or earning significantly less than you used to (also called being “underemployed”) to continue to receive unemployment benefits. You have to report any earnings from work to the California Employment Development Department. In some states, you will still be entitled unemployment benefits if you earn less than your weekly benefit amount; about half the states will allow you to continue receiving benefits even if you earn a bit more than your weekly benefit amount. You will be allowed to set aside some of what you earn (the amount varies from state to state). The rest will be subtracted from your usual weekly benefit amount, and you will receive the difference. For more information about receiving partial unemployment benefits, see How Much Will I Collect in Unemployment Benefits in California?
Able and Available To Work
You have to be able to work and available for jobs that you can do in order to collect unemployment in California. Some states allow people who become disabled or ill after applying for unemployment benefits to continue to receive benefits. The California Employment Development Department has a handbook for workers called Unemployment Insurance: A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services. Check this handbook to find out how California defines “able” to work for unemployment benefits purposes. The handbook has information on what you need to do to continue collecting unemployment benefits.
You also must be available to accept suitable work. In some states, you only have to be available to work in the same locality that you earned your base period wages. (More information about availability for suitable work in California can be found in Unemployment Insurance: A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services.
If a job is not suitable, you can reject it and still collect unemployment benefits. Whether a job is suitable depends on whether or not your prior training, physical fitness, experience, and prior earnings level make you a good fit. And, if the job would create a risk to your health or safety, or if it is located far from where you live, you may be able to reject it as unsuitable. Check Unemployment Insurance: A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services for more information about what is considered a suitable job in California.
Actively Looking for Work
You have to actively look for work to receive unemployment benefits in California. Scanning the want ads while sipping your morning coffee is not enough. You have to check job listings, send in applications, and contact hiring employers. Some states require that you make a certain number of job contacts per week, although about half the states require just one per week. California Employment Development Department's Unemployment Insurance: A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services can tell you how many job contacts you have to make every week in order to keep collecting benefits.
While receiving unemployment benefits in California, you should keep a log of the jobs you apply for, job openings that you respond to, and other efforts you make to find work. The California Employment Development Department may ask to review that log while you are receiving benefits. Some states even require that you report your job contacts on a weekly basis. Again, California Employment Development Department's Unemployment Insurance: A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services will tell you what you need to do.
Filing To Continue To Receive Benefits
You have to file with California Employment Development Department to receive weekly benefits. Check the California agency website for instructions on filing for weekly benefits. You can find more information in California Employment Development Department's Unemployment Insurance: A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services. This resource has information about what you need to do to keep receiving unemployment benefits in California, including how to report job search efforts and file for weekly benefits.
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