A BENEFITS PRIMER FOR THE NEWLY UNEMPLOYED
Here’s the lowdown on applying for Unemployment Insurance.
Applying for UI
The Unemployment Insurance Program, commonly referred to as UI, provides weekly unemployment insurance payments for workers who lose their job through no fault of their own. The UI program is funded by employers who pay taxes on wages paid to employees. Claims last 26 weeks on average, but you may apply for four extensions.
To apply for UI, you must
- Be unemployed or working less than full-time,
- Be able to look for work, and
- Have worked in the last 18 months.
Apply immediately, and apply online (eapply4ui.edd.ca.gov/). It is by far the fastest route to getting your claim rolling. NOTE: When completing the online application, do not use any features that automatically fill your personal information, such as Google’s Autofill, Internet Explorer’s AutoComplete, or other similar features. If such features are used, it will cause entries in your online application to be incorrect.
Having problems? You can go to EDD.ca.gov and watch a “how to apply” video. You can also drop by your local One-Stop Career Center and sign up for a free workshop. One-Stop Career Centers, available in all 50 states, provide job seekers with a full range of services under one roof, including help with claims, training referrals, career counseling, job listings, and more. To find a One-Stop close to you, log onto www.servicelocator.org.
In addition to your name (including all names you used while working), address and telephone number, state-issued driver’s license or ID card number, you will need to have ready:
- The last date you worked for any employer. If you are working part-time be sure to tell EDD you are still working, supply the number of hours you are working each week, and the last day you worked prior to filing a UI claim.
- Last employer information, including: name, address (mailing and physical location) and telephone number. EDD will also need the ZIP code for both addresses (mailing and physical location) and the area code for your last employer’s telephone number.
Be specific about the spelling of the employer’s name and make sure the address is correct because EDD is required to mail a notice to that employer. An incorrect address will delay benefit payments.
- Information on all employers you worked for during the 18 months prior to filing your claim, including: name, period of employment, wages earned and how you were paid.
- The name of the employer you worked for the longest within the last year and a half; and the number of years you worked for that employer. This may or may not be the same as your last employer.
- The reason you are no longer working for your last employer. You may have quit, been laid off, fired, or left work because of a trade dispute. Be specific about the reason you are not working because the information you supply must be sent to your last employer. If you quit, were fired, or left work because of a trade dispute, you will be scheduled for a future telephone eligibility interview.
- Whether you are receiving, or expect to receive any payments from a former employer. Some types of payments may be deducted from your benefits. A few examples of payments that may be deducted include wages, pension payments, holiday pay, and vacation or sick pay. Severance pay is not deducted from unemployment insurance benefits and does not affect your eligibility to receive benefits. However, you must report severance pay at the time you file your unemployment insurance claim.
- If you have accepted a buyout, do NOT say you quit on your application. In most buyouts, employers agree that you were laid off, since the same financial crunch led the company to offer buyouts as to lay off workers. Likewise, do not say you left to start your own business even if that is what you are hoping to do. EDD will consider you to be self-employed and deny your benefits, even if you are nowhere near making a go of your business.
Tips on filing for benefits
Make a practice of photo-copying your records (print out your EDD application to save) and save all of your online dealings with the EDD. Keep notes of your phone interviews.
Be honest when you are asked about such things as severance pay. You won’t get docked or turned down because of it. Don’t lie about anything, but don’t offer information that is not requested.
If you receive a Guild pension you are still eligible for UI. This is because you helped pay for your pension over the years you worked at the paper. If you are asked whether you contributed to the pension, say yes.
Applying for benefits can be “a kafka-esque experience,” according to one laid-off journalist. “It’s good to talk to friends and former colleagues who’ve been through the process before — or are still going through it — for guidance and moral support.”
The EDD website is a good one and worth getting to know. Check the announcements and press releases frequently.
Once your application has been approved
Checks are sent twice a month, along with a Continued Claims form that you must complete and mail back in the enclosed envelope NO SOONER than the date requested – even it if is on a Sunday. It may take a while for the system to get rolling, and you may receive one or more retroactive checks.
On the form, you will be asked to detail your job search on the other side. You do not need to do this; this has not been required since the 1970s and omitting it will not slow or interrupt your claims.
You’ll notice on the form that you have the option to check a box that indicates you were too sick to work or to seek work. Checking this box will interrupt your claim and you will be scheduled for a telephone interview within a month or so. Don’t bother if you’ve simply been under the weather. For one thing, unless you are on your death bed, you are going to be perusing the online job listings, so it would not actually be true. This box exists for people who are suffering from a prolonged and incapacitating illness; they are directed to apply for Disability Insurance.
If you’ve done a freelance job, or if you’ve written a story as part of a job try-out, make it clear these were one-time-only assignments. Identifying your editor as an “employer” creates problems. Report your earnings the week you are paid. Your fee will cut into your UI paycheck, but also extend your benefits. There is no limit to what you can earn in a given week. You lose only that week’s benefits, whether you earned $500 or $5,000.
Unemployment is taxable only by the feds, not the state. There is a box on the form you can check if you want a federal deduction to be made. If you decide to have taxes withheld, you must indicate that on each form you mail in.
Each check has a tear-off strip at the top telling you what week the check covers and how much was taken out for taxes. One of the two checks you get will also tell you how much money is left in your overall claim. Save these stubs for doing your taxes.
Job Training funds
Journalism has been identified as a depressed industry. A number of programs, including the Workforce Investment Act, fund retraining or skill updates for unemployed workers. The state will pay for your coursework as well as your continued unemployment claims if you enroll in one of its hundreds of approved programs (Peruse the list at etpl.edd.ca.gov/wiaetplind.htm). You must go through a process that involves a couple of interviews and some testing. If it seems a bit unwieldy, that is because this is the combined effort of city, state and community-based agencies. Again, be your own advocate; don’t get lost in the shuffle when your case moves from one agency to the next.
Getting in touch with EDD
1-866-333-4606 for automated check information and whereabouts of One-Stop Centers.
1-800-300-5616 to speak to a representative about a problem.
Calling can be a frustrating experience. You can wait for a half hour to speak to someone, or EDD may simply disconnect you if the waits are running long, which they inevitably are.
Tips: Try calling at or close to 8 a.m.; you’ll wait less than five minutes to speak to a representative. Also, you can call the numbers for Spanish-, Vietnamese- and Chinese-speaking reps (they speak English, too). Or, if you must call later in the day, drop by one of the One-Stop Centers and use their direct-line phones. Be prepared to be your own advocate at the One-Stop Centers; the squeaky wheel gets the oil. But treat the workers at the Centers with respect; you’ll find your courtesy goes a long way.
You can also email the EDD. Many people find this more expeditious. A representative should respond within a day or two. (See “email us,” at the top of the left-hand column on the UI contact page). And you’ll have a record of your conversation.
You can apply for the federal extended benefits online using the same application that is used for regular unemployment benefits.
Check out Guild Freelance member Aaron Crowe’s article: