California’s High Unemployment Triggers Additional Compensation

If you lost your job due to the COVID-19 shutdown, then you may need to file for unemployment insurance with the Employment Development Department.

Due to COVID-19, California processed more than 2.3 million unemployment insurance (UI) claims during March and April, which is more than the total number of claims filed in 2019. Just for the week ending Saturday, April 4, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) processed 925,450 claims, which is a 2,418 percent increase over the same week last year.

Because these numbers are so staggering, Governor Gavin Newsom announced on April 9 that California workers who have lost their jobs due to coronavirus-linked shutdowns will receive an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits as part of the new Pandemic Additional Compensation (PAC) initiated by the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act.”

“The state will begin implementing new federal benefit payments of $600 on top of the weekly benefit received by California workers,” the governor’s office said in a release. (The additional $600 per week is slated to last four months, government officials said).

Normally, jobless benefits only go to employees who receive a W-2 and pay into the state’s unemployment insurance system but these are not normal times. Unlike in previous years, the new federal program also makes freelancers, gig workers, and other self-employed people eligible for jobless benefits.

The governor also announced that the state’s Employment Development Department will expand call-in hours to seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.: go to for the phone number in your area.

If you do not need to speak with an EDD representative, call the UI Self-Service Phone Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (866) 333-4606.

“Many Californians are feeling the effects of the pandemic and this added benefit is very important to our workers, so they have needed resources during this difficult time,” said Governor Newsom in an announcement. “I want to thank both our federal partners, as well as everyone in our Labor Agency and the staff in the Employment Development Department, who are working around the clock to ensure California workers have the resources they need to get through this difficult time.”


How to Apply for Unemployment Insurance

For more information on how to apply for unemployment insurance benefits and what claimants need to know about these new $600 additional payments, visit the EDD website at

For critical steps Californians can take to stay healthy and available resources for those impacted by the outbreak, visit

The following information provides the latest available on EDD’s efforts to implement the new unemployment provisions of the federal CARES Act. For more up-to-date information, go to

  • The EDD is working on the programming needed to implement the extra $600 per week benefit payment paid by the federal government to workers collecting regular UI benefits. That programming can’t be finalized until states receive the details and final guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Barring any big surprises in that guidance, it is EDD’s hope that the extra benefit payments can continue as bi-weekly payments come due for unemployed Californians.
  •  It always takes about three (3) weeks for most Californians to receive their first benefit payment if found eligible, with the exception primarily of wage and identity issues. But after that first benefit payment, unemployed workers will have to answer basic certification questions every two weeks to receive bi-weekly payments as long as they remain eligible.
  • The EDD is also awaiting final details to be able to start programming to grant an additional 13 weeks of federally paid unemployment benefits when an unemployed worker runs out of all of the benefits associated with their regular state-administered unemployment claim.
  • In California, regular state benefit payments can be made for up to 26 weeks within a one-year timeframe.
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is a brand-new program. The EDD is working quickly with the California Department of Technology (CDT)/Office of Digital Innovation to develop the application needed to stand up this new program to serve unemployed Californians who don’t usually qualify for regular UI benefits, including the self-employed.

 It is the EDD’s hope that this new program will closely mirror the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program benefits that Californians have received in the wake of recent disasters including the large wildfires.


Annemarie Donkin

Annemarie Donkin is a journalist who wrote for The Signal in Valencia, CA and was the Managing Editor for the Topanga Messenger from 2013 to 2016. She is thrilled to write for the Messenger Mountain News to continue the tradition of excellent community newspapers. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel throughout California, read, watch movies and keep bees.

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