California is experiencing an unprecedented amount of unemployment claims, as workers are furloughed, laid-off, and having their hours reduced throughout the state due to COVID-19. 

For the week ending on March 21, 2020 the Employment Development Department (EDD) has processed 186,809 unemployment insurance (UI) claims, a 363 percent increase from the same week  in 2019. The most recent total shows a surge in claimants, as the previous week saw the EDD processing “only” 57,606 claims. 

The EDD is expecting the number of processed claims to rise even higher, as the department has changed the way it operates, allowing them to work more efficiently. 

While the EDD’s reporting reflects only claims that have been processed, Gov. Gavin Newsom stated that the cumulative total of claim applications received is estimated to be more than 1 million. To provide economic relief to those that have filed, the governor has issued an executive order instructing the EDD to waive the one-week unpaid waiting period for those unemployed or disabled due to the pandemic. 

Residents who are out of work as a result of the public health crisis are able to apply for unemployment benefits or disability benefits through California’s EDD. Available in Spanish and English, the department has instituted specific policies to deal with coronavirus-related unemployment and hour reduction. Workers and caregivers can find out how to collect payment here

To help better understand what does, or does not, apply to you, we have answered some of the most common unemployment questions below with help from the EDD website: 

Am I eligible for unemployment?

You are eligible to receive unemployment benefits if you have earned enough wages during the EDD’s pre-determined base period, and if you meet the eligibility requirements

What are the eligibility requirements for unemployment? 

In order to qualify for benefits, you must prove that you are:

  • Totally or partially unemployed.
  • Unemployed through no fault of your own.
  • Physically able to work.
  • Available for work.
  • Ready and willing to accept work immediately.
  • Actively looking for work.

What is a base period? 

The EDD defines ‘base period’ as a specific 12-month term prior to filing. This period of time is used to see if you have earned enough wages to establish a UI claim. Learn more about how benefits are computed here

Do I need to wait one week before receiving benefits, if my claim is approved?

No, the Governor’s Executive Order waives the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can collect UI benefits for the first week you are out of work.

Where do I file for unemployment? 

Visit and select “File & Manage a Claim” to apply for benefits. Through this link you can also find out current eligibility requirements and benefit amounts, learn about the appeals process, and more.

Will I be required to have a phone interview in order to claim unemployment benefits? 

It depends on your situation. EDD representatives may request a phone interview in order to collect more details regarding your claim. 

If I wasn’t fired but my hours were cut, can I still collect unemployment? 

Yes, you can be eligible for unemployment benefits if your hours have been reduced due to the quarantine.

What is different about COVID-19 unemployment vs. regular unemployment? 

You are not required to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19. In addition, federal laws have changed in order to encompass those out of work due to the virus. States are now able to pay benefits for the following situations:

  • You are out of work due to your employer temporarily ceasing operations due to COVID-19.
  • You are quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over.
  • You voluntarily leave work due to a risk of infection.
  • You voluntarily leave work to care for a family member.

Am I required to look for work weekly if I file for unemployment?

If you are temporarily out of work but plan to return to the same employer, your are not required to look for work while you are collecting benefits. If you do not have a job to return to you are required to look for work. Ultimately, the EDD will inform you of your requirements. 

Do I need a computer to file for Unemployment Insurance, PFL, or Disability Insurance? 

In addition to online, you can file for benefits by phone, by fax, or by mail.

Who do I call to file an unemployment claim?

Representatives are available at the following toll-free numbers, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 noon (Pacific time) except on state holidays.

English 1-800-300-5616

Spanish 1-800-326-8937

Cantonese 1-800-547-3506

Mandarin 1-866-303-0706

Vietnamese 1-800-547-2058

TTY 1-800-815-9387

Who do I call to file a Paid Family Leave or Disability Insurance claim?

You can contact EDD representatives at 1-800-480-3287 for Disability Insurance or 1-877-238-4373 for Paid Family Leave, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

How much money can I get for unemployment? 

Your weekly benefit amount ranges from $40 to $450. To get an estimate of what you will receive, use the UI Benefit Calculator.

How much money can I get for a reduction in hours?

According to the EDD, the first $25 or 25 percent of your wages, whichever is the greater amount, is not counted as wages earned and will not be reduced from your UI weekly benefit amount. For example, if you earned $100 in a week, the Department would not count $25 as wages and would only deduct $75 from your weekly benefit amount. For someone who has a weekly benefit amount of $450, they would be paid a reduced amount of $375.

How much money can I get for disability?

Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week.

Can I get unemployment if I’m staying home due to quarantine?

You should apply for UI benefits if you were separated from your employer during the quarantine or you are subject to a quarantine required by a medical professional or state/local health officer.

What benefits do I qualify if I have COVID-19? 

If you become sick, you are eligible for Disability Insurance (DI), which can provide a higher benefit amount if you’re eligible. A medical certification is required to substantiate your illness when you file your DI claim.

What is the difference between Paid Family Leave (PFL) and unemployment insurance (UI)?

If you have a family member who becomes sick, you could be eligible for Paid Family Leave if you are caring for them. PFL has a higher benefit amount, and requires a medical certification is required to substantiate your family member’s illness.

How do I get a medical certification? 

You can use Telehealth and virtual appointments to be seen by a physician and get a medical certification.

How do I file for PFL?

Submit your claim online and ensure you have the supporting medical documentation submitted online immediately after. 

Can I apply for unemployment benefits if I am self-employed, a gig worker or an independent contractor?

You are eligible for benefits if you chose to contribute to UI Elective Coverage and paid the required contributions to be considered potentially eligible for benefits; or if your past employer made contributions on your behalf over the past 5 to 18 months; or if have been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee.

What happens if I believe I was misclassified as an independent contractor? 

If you believe you are misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, you should list the business you contract with as your last employer when filing your unemployment claim. Include employer information, the type of work you performed, the sates you worked, as well as your gross wages and how you were paid. 

I am a freelancer, a gig worker, an independent contractor, or self-employed, who should I list as my last employer when filing my UI claim?

You should list yourself as your last employer.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I chose to stay home out of concern for my health? 

If you voluntarily stayed home and become unemployed due to concerns regarding your underlying health conditions and the coronavirus, you may still be eligible for benefits. File a claim and explain in the space provided why you are unable to work. It is likely an EDD representative will reach out for a phone interview to review your eligibility. 

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if my child’s school shut down, and I had to stay home to care for them?

Given the changes to benefits requirements, you could still be eligible to receive payment. File a claim and explain in the space provided why you are unable to work. It is likely an EDD representative will reach out for a phone interview to review your eligibility. 

Can I collect unemployment and disability at the same time?

No, you can only collect payments under one benefit program at a time.

When will I receive my first check?

Within three weeks of filing. Because Gov. Newsom waived the waiting period, you will receive a full two weeks of benefits on your first check, and one week of benefits on each check thereafter. 

Why is my check taking longer than three weeks?

Inconsistencies may prolong the process and cause you to have a longer timeline before you receive benefits. Examples would be the information you submitted not matching wage records, or if your identity cannot be verified. 


For more information on unemployment in California, visit


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