How long do unemployment benefits last in California?
An unemployment benefits claim is effective for one year. During the year, claimants can receive from 12-26 weeks of full benefits. The number of weeks varies, based on total earnings during the base period (an individual’s earnings during a 12-month period).
Once you finish your benefits i.e. after 26, you may no longer collect any unemployment benefits until the benefits year has completely transpired, which is typically 52 weeks after the time of your first benefits claim was filed. However, you are permitted to file a second claim for additional benefits following the completion of your 52 week benefits year so long as you can meet the standard eligibility requirements (same as in your first claim) as well as an additional “past earnings” requirement. This modified “past earnings” requires that you earn wages during the benefit year of your first claim. The purpose of this modified requirement is to ensure that you do not collect unemployment for a second claim if you have not worked or earned any compensation during the entire benefit year of your first claim.
Your claim for benefits will remain active for one year. Your benefits year commences with the date of the filing of your first claim. The claim is considered to be filed on the Sunday prior to filing your first claim for benefits. There is typically a seven-day waiting period after filing your original claim, and you will not receive any benefits during this interval. If you obtain employment and it is terminated or otherwise ends during the benefit year, you do not need to file a new claim, but rather than simply request the EDD reopen your first claim.
However, keep in mind that once you have been granted eligibility to receive benefits by the EDD, you must then meet certain criteria in order to continue your eligibility. The criteria includes: (1) being mentally and physically able to perform work in your vocation; (2) remaining underemployed or unemployed; (3) be actively looking for new work; (4) complying with the reporting requirements of the EDD by submitting bi weekly Continued Claim Forms; (5) being immediately available for appropriate work in a suitable field of employment. Failure in meeting any of these requirements may lead to penalties, disqualification and even the repayment of benefits.
Able to Work
Being “able to work” means that you are mentally and physically prepared to do work in a position that meets your vocational training or skills. If you have a disability (i.e. injury or illness) which requires an accommodation in order to continue working (i.e. restrictions on sitting for too long or lifting more than a certain weight), you may still be able to meet this requirement. However, if your disability completely prevents you from seeking employment for one or more work days in a work week, then you must state this on your Continued Claim Form and your weekly benefit will likely reflect a reduced amount based thereon. In the alternative, if your disability does not permit you to work for over a week, then you should highly consider filing a claim with the EDD for temporary (or possibly permanent) State Disability Insurance benefits. Once you are able to work, at least part time, you can re-initiate your unemployment insurance claim.
Underemployed and Unemployed
UI only permits you to receive benefits if you are earning less than 1.33 times your weekly benefit amount. If you are earning some income, but not as much as 1.33 times your WBA, then you must state same on your Continued Claim Form and your WBA will likely be reduced accordingly.
Available for Work
This means that you are immediately available to accept work in your vocational field. While you are afforded a presumption of availability for work, the EDD could find that you do not meet this requirement if it is made aware that you are turning down employment or substantially limiting your employment search without having good reason to do so. Some examples of actions that may result in disqualification include: restricting your employment search to part-time work for no good reason (assuming you were full time in your last position), restricting it to an unreasonable small geographic area; starting school instead of seeking employment; becoming incarcerated; becoming a full time caretaker, etc.