How does unemployment work?

  • Eligibility: When unemployment is working it is wonderful, when it is not, it can be distressing.  When you are working you pay into the unemployment insurance (UI) system.  This so that if you get laid off of work you can receive financial support until you find employment again.  Even though you put money into the system it is not your money.  Putting in the system only entitles you to receive UI.  And your only entitled to receive UI "if" you are "laid off."  You are not entitled to UI if you quit your job.  And may or may not be entitled if you are fired.  It depends on the situation.  
  • California: Each state maintains their own UI system independent of the federal government.  In California, UI is managed by EDD.  Although EDD operates many employment programs, the only one anyone cares about is UI.  Although EDD maintains offices throughout the state, the UI program operates out of Sacramento, so going to an EDD office for help on UI may not be all that helpful.   
  • Laid Off: To file for UI you first need to be "laid off."  That means your employer is letting you go because 1) they no longer have need of your services or 2) do not have the money to pay you.  Even if they have work and money but are letting you go because they are not happy with the your work, you are still being "laid off."  To get "fired" you have to have done something harmful like stealing, lying, doing or saying something offensive to others.  When you get laid off, by law, your employment must inform you about UI and how to apply.  If you are fired, they do not have to inform you about UI.  In fact, they may try to prevent you from receiving it.  
  • Filing a Claim:  Once your are laid off, you should immediately file a UI "claim."  Filing for your claim is completed online.  If you have access to the internet and are fairly computer competent, it is not too difficult.  The process can take anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours.  This is what you need for filing.  After submitting your claim online, you will then need to wait about a week to receive a letter from EDD letting you know if your are entitled to receive UI, or if they require further information from you.  Sometimes they will set up a telephone interview.  Unless you were fired, most of this is procedural.  
  • The Amount:  The maximum amount you can receive is $900, every two weeks for six months.  This totals around $10,800.   You may be entitled to an extension which we will address later.  The maximum amount indicates that you put the maximum amount into the UI system.  If you were working part-time and for less than 18 months when laid off, your claim amount will likely be much less.  Your first first claim form will show the total amount you have coming.
  • IU Account: Since 2011, EDD no longer pays in checks.  They made an agreement with Bank of America.  And now an account is created and you are issued debit card.  I strongly recommend you have the Bank of America deposit your UI money into your regular bank account.  They will make a fuss about it, but it much easier.  Its like having direct deposit.