29 April 2018

Secrets to Applying for Unemployment

On February 2nd I was laid off from a job I'd had for seven years. Before that, I'd held a job for 5 years and before that another job for 5 years. I'd never had a break between jobs and I've been working since I was 14-years-old. I've been working full time since I was 17-years-old. I'd never had the experience of filing for or trying to live on unemployment. It's probably due to this that my first experience was very frustrating. After several weeks of mistakes, hours on the phone and missed checks here's what I learned. (Note: these tips refer to the California Unemployment system, other states may have a different process)

Unemployment Waiting Period

File on your first day that you are unemployed. There is a 1 week waiting period from the time you file. Every day you wait is money you miss out on. 

Don't Lose the Password

Keep your online password handy and don't lose it. If you forget your password and get locked out, it could take literally weeks to get ahold of someone to help you get back into the system. If you don't "certify" soon enough you could have to start the whole process over.

Certify Online

Certify online and you'll get your money much faster. There are also fewer chances for mistakes. If you make even the slightest mistake on your paper form, you will need to talk to someone on the phone before you can continue your benefits. The unemployment office is only open 8AM-12pm M-F and the phone lines are always busy. There is almost no possibility of ever getting through to a live person.

How to Call the Unemployment Office

OK, now the hard part. There are a number of problems that can happen which will require you to get on the phone with an actual person. It's very hard, it takes a lot of time, but it can happen. The difficulty is that the phones are only staffed Monday through Friday from 8AM PST to Noon and they almost always ring busy and then hang up on you. There are a few ways to sneak through.

  1. First, start at 8AM on Monday morning, you will probably need to try for the full 4 hours a day for several days to get through. 
  2. Don't bother with the toll-free 800 number, you won't get through on this line. Try the actual offices. There are several office numbers you can try. Run down the list, calling over and over until you reach a live person. Then explain you do not want to be transferred to the 800 number, you need to speak to a caseworker directly. 
  3. Insist on holding the line until you are transferred to a live person that can help you. Persistence is the key!

Here are the numbers to try:

415-351-7200 (San Bernadino)
619-525-4995 (call after 12pm)
714-687-4400 (Orange County)
909-383-4663 (Pomona)
916-653-0707 (EDD general information line)
916-654-0453 (Sacramento Disability Office)
916-654-9140 (Sacramento)
800-547-2058 (Vietnamese line, press 6-7-3, enter SSN, press 1)

Good Luck!!

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