Navigating the unemployment insurance system can be intimidating, especially if you're a first-time user. Computers, call centers and the absence of face-to-face contact can often lead to frustration. Multiple-tiered federal extensions in various stages of execution, dual-state claims along with an unprecedented number of claimants in the system can slow the process. Only trained state personnel can advise you properly regarding the specifics of your claim since each one is unique. These tips however, will make your experience less stressful and help you avoid pitfalls along your way.
1. Plan ahead, pick your option
Before you file your claim, gather the necessary information. A handy checklist is provided at edd.ca.gov. Use it as your guideline. Know your filing options:
• Telephone: Due to high call volume, it's challenging to get through, but not impossible. Be patient and persistent. A telephone call is required for claims that require special handling such as federal wage claims.
• Fax/mail: You can pick up a copy of the unemployment application at the One-Stop Employment Center where faxing is provided at no cost. On your first visit bring your Social Security card and driver's license so you can register. A card will be issued to you for subsequent visits.
• Online: This method provides optimum efficiency and is available around the clock anywhere there's Internet access. Always print out or jot down your claim confirmation number. This will establish your claim beginning date if an error occurs. The One Stop Center provides computers and Internet access as part of their comprehensive services.
2. Don't self-eliminate
Once you're unemployed or underemployed file your claim immediately even if you think you may not qualify. Don't mistakenly talk to friends, neighbors or even employers who may unintentionally give incorrect information. Your claim is established on the Sunday of the week you file, not when your job ended.
3. Get Informed
The Employment Development Department's website has an abundance of information. It's user-friendly and interactive. YouTube instructional videos give basic information and beyond. Tip sheets, fact sheets and brochures are available in English and Spanish. Frequently asked questions offer quick references. Check out the Benefit Determination Guides. These guides contain detailed eligibility criteria imposed by federal and state law. If you're filing an appeal, they will help you prepare. Too much reading you say? It could help you in the long run. Both claimants and employers can benefit from information provided.
4. Details matter
Read correspondence with a meticulous eye. Document EDD contacts. Keep wage records, letters of dismissal, physician clearances, anything that pertains to your case along with a record of your work search. If you work or earn money, keep a log of wages, hours, and dates. Report them appropriately and timely. Need a copy machine? You'll find one at the One-Stop Employment Center.
5. Know rights and responsibilities.
Read "A Guide To Benefits And Employment Services" completely and carefully. Lost your copy? Access it on the EDD website. This pamphlet contains information vital to your claim. Make it your go-to reference.
If you're scheduled for a telephone interview, know the issue in question. Check the back of your appointment notice for details. Be available during the two-hour time frame. Typically an interview will take 10 minutes or less. If you're not available the department will make a decision based on the available facts. It's in your best interest to keep this appointment. If rescheduling is unavoidable, call the number provided immediately.
7. Timeliness matters
Pay attention to dates. Don't submit your continued claim form too late or too early. A delay could result. If you're filing an appeal, make sure it's timely. Don't add a problem on top of a problem by filing an untimely appeal.
8. Be honest
There are strict penalties for false statements. Don't do it.
9. Plug in
Check out EDD on Facebook and Twitter. Learn what's new. Know what's happening. Read "Tips of the Week." Get on board with available resources. There are many. Speak out. Interact. Don't get mad. Get involved.
10. Got questions?
"Ask EDD" is the fastest way to get answers. The inside flap of "Guide To Benefits and Employment Services" will provide easy instructions for access. Include your Social Security number and email address. Be specific and clear with your inquiry.
- Gloria Sinibaldi is a career professional that has worked in the employment field since 1987. While working for the Employment Development Department in Fremont and San Francisco, Gloria's clients included professionals, welfare recipients, youth and the general population of unemployed individuals. She is a trainer, coach and job developer. Her accomplishments include launching Fremont's "Welfare To Work" Success Center and coordinating PRONET, a 250-member job club for unemployed professionals. She lives in Lake Tahoe with her husband, Ralph. For information, email email@example.com