Apply for unemployment in California due to COVID-19

Not since the Great Recession, a lot of Americans have lost their jobs, thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak – and that means a record number of Americans are trying to get unemployment insurance subsidies from the government. Even in the best of times, that process can be overwhelming and unpleasant. Here are some quick links and resources to make it easier for you to find eligible funds.

If you’re an employer, visit the California Department of Employment Development’s Employers center for more information on how employees claim unemployment affects your business.

How to claim unemployment

See California’s helpful guidance on applying for unemployment benefits for guidance on the documents you need, what happens when you apply, and how to continue receiving unemployment benefits in the future. Due to the pandemic, this includes W-2 workers and free workers, free workers, contract workers, and 1099 independent contractors, as well as those eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You may experience delays applying for unemployment because of the large number, but go on.

Create or access your Benefits Program Online account to begin the application or re-certification process. The on-screen guide will guide you through it all. Check out the online FAQ if you have more questions. Visit the state COVID-19 FAQ for specific questions about the pandemic.

If you need to talk to someone or sign up over the phone, you have a number of different options.

Complaints: For help with your requests in English, call 1-800-300-5616, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to noon. You can also speak to the operator in Spanish (1-800-326-8937), Cantonese (1-800-547-3506), Chinese (1-866-303-0706) and Vietnamese (1-800-547-2058).
Deafness/Hearing: Visit TTY support at 1-800-815-9387.
UI Automatic Self-Service Line: Call (866) 333-4606 in English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, seven days a week

In addition to state unemployment subsidies, the federal government will distribute $600 along with each disbursement through December 26, 2020. The subsidies can last for 26 weeks and must be pushed back by the first week you are unemployed. An additional 13 weeks of benefits are available through the federal CARES Act. In California, if you have applied for PUA, then this extension may be automatic.

Who is eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
People who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits can still receive PUA if they are diagnosed, have symptoms, or are directly impacted by COVID-19, including:
A household member of an individual who has been diagnosed with COVID-19

An individual who is caring for a family member or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
A child or other family member with whom the primary care responsible person cannot attend a school or another facility is closed as a direct result of a COVID-19 emergency and school or care is necessary for the individual to work
Individuals who are unable to get to work because of COVID-19 quarantine or because a healthcare professional has advised them to self-isolate due to COVID-19 concerns
Individuals who have been scheduled to start work and are out of work or unable to access work as a direct result of COVID-19

An individual has become a breadwinner or primary support for a household because the householder has died as a direct result of COVID-19
Individuals who have quit their jobs or been seeded as a direct result of COVID-19
Individual workplaces closed as a direct result of COVID-19
Learn more about California’s PUA program and answer questions at the state’s online PUA FAQ.

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