If your job was affected by coronavirus: Here’s how to file for unemployment in California

Shuttered businesses in downtown Los Angeles
Unemployment benefits are available to people who have lost jobs or hours during the coronavirus outbreak.
(File Photo)

As workers lose jobs or have their hours reduced during the coronavirus outbreak, many Californians will turn to unemployment benefits for help.

The state is already seeing a surge in claims. For the week ending March 14, there were 58,208 claims processed, a 34 percent increase over the previous week, according to the California Employment Development Department.

If you’ve lost a job or had hours reduced due to the pandemic, you can file a claim for unemployment benefits. Parents who have to stay home to care for a child due to a school closure are also eligible.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order waives the usual one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can apply right away. Officials encourage applying online for the quickest response.

Am I eligible?

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be unemployed through no fault of your own, physically able and available to work, actively looking for work, and ready to accept work immediately. If this doesn’t apply to you, there are other benefits, such as disability or sick leave, that might fit your situation.

What do I need to apply?

Make sure you have information such as your employment history (including the last day you worked, the reason you aren’t working anymore and your gross earnings) and driver’s license number handy. A recent pay stub is also useful, since it contains all the information you’ll likely need on your employer, such as the name of the company as it appears on the stub or on a W-2.

You will also need your employment history for the last 18 months, including start and end dates and wages earned.

What you’re paid in unemployment benefits depends on your wages over the past 12 to 18 months, and payments can range from $40 to $450 per week. For more information on how much you might be eligible for, the Employment Development Department offers a calculator.

How can I file for Unemployment Insurance?

You may file for Unemployment Insurance (UI) through one of the following methods:

• ONLINE is the fastest and most convenient way to file your UI claim at to get started. You can file your claim with UI online during these times:
Monday 4 a.m.-10 p.m.
Tuesday-Friday 2 a.m.-10 p.m.
Saturday 2 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Sunday 5 a.m.-8:30 p.m.

• BY PHONE: Representatives are available at the following toll-free numbers, Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. to noon (Pacific Time) except state holidays:
English 1-800-300-5616
Spanish 1-800-326-8937
Cantonese Chinese 1-800-547-3506
Mandarin Chinese 1-866-303-0706
Vietnamese 1-800-547-2058
TTY 1-800-815-9387

• FAX OR MAIL: File your UI claim by accessing the paper Unemployment Insurance Application at and for faster and more secure processing, fax the completed application to the number listed on the form. If you mail your application, use the address on the form and allow additional time for processing.

What happens after I apply?

After you file, you’ll be mailed information about the claim and the program. Once you’re receiving benefits, you’ll have to certify every two weeks, which you can do online. To keep receiving benefits, you have to show that you are actively looking for work. The department advises keeping a record of your search dates.

If there are questions about your eligibility, you may have to participate in a phone interview.