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Message #624 California unemployment insurance benefits

mp3 #624 California Unemployment Insurance Benefits (mp3 file)

Like most California workers, you are probably covered by unemployment insurance benefits, if you are laid off from your job, or if your work hours are only part time. This SmartLaw message will discuss the following six questions:

1. What kinds of workers are usually covered by unemployment insurance, and what kinds of workers are usually not covered?

2. What makes you eligible for benefits, and what makes you ineligible?

3. If you are eligible, how do you make your claim for benefits?

4. How is the amount of your weekly check determined, and for how long do you receive benefits?

5. What if you or your former employer disagrees with the decision of the unemployment office?

6. Do you have to pay income taxes on your unemployment benefits?

First, what kinds of workers are usually covered by unemployment insurance? Most California workers are covered. In addition to most employees of private companies and corporations, public employees of federal, state and local governments, recent members of the armed forces who completed a period of honorable service, and employees of most types of schools and colleges, are also covered. The costs of unemployment insurance are paid for by your employer, in the form of a tax on your wages, but this is not a tax which is deducted from your paycheck.

The types of workers who are not covered are the following:

--minor children employed by their parents.

--parents employed by their children.

--husbands and wives employed by each other.

--certain state-licensed salesmen paid only on commissions.

--golf caddies and horse racing jockeys.

--students who are employed by schools or colleges where they regularly attend classes, and

--students' spouses who work for schools or colleges in special programs that financially aid the student.

Next, what makes you eligible for benefits, and what makes you ineligible?

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must:

1-- Now be out of work entirely, as a result of being laid off by your employer, or if you are forced to quit because of compelling circumstances. Layoffs are usually due to lack of work, and are not your fault. Or your working hours must now be part-time.

2-- During a specified 12-month period out of the last year and a half, your total earnings must have been at least $1300 during one quarter, or as low as $900 in one quarter plus the total base period earnings of 1.25 times your high quarter earnings.

3-- While receiving unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work. Even if you are working part-time, you may still be eligible for benefits, because the first $25 on earnings under $100, or 25% of earnings over $100, of your total weekly part-time earnings, will not be counted, and only your remaining part-time earnings will be deducted from your weekly benefits.

What might make you ineligible for unemployment benefits?

You may be ineligible if you were discharged or fired from your job, due to your misconduct in connection with your work. Your employer is the one who must prove that you were fired for good cause.

You may also be ineligible if you quit your last job, unless you had to quit for compelling reasons. You are the one who must prove, that you had to quit for compelling reasons.

There are also other reasons why you could be ineligible for benefits:

-if you voluntarily retired from your last job, or

-if you left your work because of a trade dispute or strike, or

-if you refuse to accept suitable work; or

-if you fail to apply for a job interview when referred by a public employment office, or

-if you fail to make reasonable efforts to find a job yourself, or

-if you are unable or unavailable to work, or

-if you make false statements or withhold information, with the unemployment office, or

-if you fail to submit your claim, within two weeks after the week for which you are seeking benefits.

If you were fired for misconduct, or if you voluntarily quit your last job without good cause, you may be ineligible indefinitely, until you work again, and earn a total of at least five (5) times the amount of your weekly benefit and otherwise qualify for unemployment benefits. Any other reasons for ineligibility may cause disqualification of benefits for fixed periods, for anywhere from 1 day (due to illness), or up to 18 weeks due to other reasons.

The next question is: "if you are eligible, how do you make your claim for benefits?"

You file your claim by telephone only, by calling the California state employment development department. To find the telephone number for your local area, look in the government pages of your telephone directory, under "California, state of," and find "employment development department." under that listing, find "unemployment insurance claims." if you are calling from outside California, call 1-800-250-3913.

You may file your claim in California, even if your earnings were in another state, because California acts as your agent, in claiming benefits from the other state. If you have worked in California, but are now unemployed and living in another state, you may claim benefits from California, by filing your claim at an employment security office in the other state where you are now living.

As soon as you are unemployed, telephone the nearest office of the employment development department (known as EDD), to file a claim. Your claim cannot begin until you make your call to file for benefits. If you delay, you may lose eligibility for one or more weeks, for which you could otherwise have received benefits. You will need to tell the EDD claim representative, the name and address of your very last employer. You will also need to give your correct social security number.

The next question is "how is the amount of your weekly check determined, and for how long do you receive benefits?"

Your unemployment check will be anywhere from $40 weekly up to $450 weekly, depending upon the amount of your earnings during your 12 month base period. If you had total earnings from $900 to $948, during the highest 3-month calendar quarter of your base period plus earnings in other quarters, then your benefit will be the $40 weekly minimum. But if you earned a total of $11,674.01 or more during your highest calendar quarter, then your benefit will be the $450 weekly maximum. The calendar quarter in which you were paid the highest wages, determines the amount of the weekly check you will receive.

Your 12-month base period is not the last 12 months just before you file your claim. The base period, on which both your eligibility and your benefits are based, begins about 18 months before you apply for benefits, and goes to about 6 months before you apply. For example, if you apply during the months of February, March, or April of any year, your base is for the 12 month period ending on September 30, of the year before you file your claim.

If you are eligible for benefits, there is a one-week waiting period for which you will receive no benefits. Your benefits begin for the second week after you file your claim, and you can expect to receive your first check by mail about 3 weeks after you first file your claim.

For unemployment insurance purposes a week begins at 12:01 Sunday morning, and ends at midnight the next Saturday night. For each two week period that you claim benefits, you need to mail a continued claim form to your EDD office. If you mail this form on Sunday, for the two weeks that just ended Saturday, you should receive your check in 7 to 10 days.

For how long will you receive unemployment checks? If you continue to be unemployed and are unable to find suitable work despite your active efforts to do so, you may receive a check for up to 26 weeks, during the 52 weeks after you file your claim providing you have a maximum claim. You may receive benefits for less than 26 weeks, however, because there is a maximum dollar amount you can receive during your benefit year. The most unemployment insurance you can receive is 26 times your weekly benefit amount, or one-half, of your total base period wages, whichever amount is less. A longer period of benefits, beyond 26 weeks, is sometimes available, if California's unemployment rate, among insured workers, is above a certain percentage which is fixed by law, and if your benefit year has not ended. This is called a federal extended claim, and the total number of weeks that you can receive the extended benefits is anywhere from 13 to 33 weeks, or half the number of weeks of your original state benefits. Due to economic conditions, the federal government may extend or shorten the benefit period.

The next question is, "what if you or your employer disagree with the decision of the unemployment office?" if your claim for benefits is denied, and if you disagree with the reasons stated on the written notice you receive, you may send a letter or an appeal form, within 20 days of the mailing date of your disqualification notice, to your local EDD office. The California unemployment insurance appeals board will then schedule a hearing before a state administrative law judge, at a nearby office where you or your designated representative may appear in person or by telephone to present your facts. The hearings are held informally, and simple non-technical language is used. You do not have to engage an attorney, but you are permitted to retain an attorney if you want one.

Either you or your former employer may request this hearing. The unemployment office is required by law to notify your former employer of your claim for benefits, and of the office's granting or denying your claim. If your employer feels you are not entitled to benefits, and if benefits are granted to you anyway by the unemployment office, then your former employer may ask for a hearing.

You may also disagree with the amount of your benefits. To dispute this you will need an accurate list of your former employers and of your earnings during your 12 month base period.

The final question is, "do you have to pay income taxes on your unemployment benefits?" Some of your unemployment benefits may be taxable, depending upon your total income, and your filing status during the tax year. No income tax is withheld from your weekly unemployment checks, however, so you will have to pay any taxes owed when you file your income tax return. Further details may be obtained from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

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