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How to apply for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Millions of Americans are unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, sadly, this includes some IHSS providers too.

Before the pandemic, IHSS providers were eligible for unemployment insurance just like other workers—except for parent and spouse providers. The exemption for parent and spouse providers is unfair and we are working to change that with our bill AB 1993.

Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a program run by the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and is meant to be short-term financial assistance for workers who become partially or fully unemployed through no fault of their own and will be able to continue working as soon as they can. Workers who quit their jobs or who were fired for cause are generally not eligible for UI, but there are exceptions.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been changes to unemployment insurance eligibility and IHSS providers have access to expanded UI benefits that will help if you become unable to work due to COVID-19 – including parent and spouse providers.


Unemployment Insurance (UI) for non-parent or non- spouse IHSS providers

  • If you are not a parent or spouse IHSS provider and you become unemployed due to COVID-19 or another reason that is not your fault you should file for UI as normal.
  • Those reasons could include if your client becomes hospitalized or dies from a cause that is not COVID-19.
  • You must also be:
    • Totally or partially unemployed through no fault of your own.
    • Physically able to work (If you are unable to work you need to file for disability, not UI).
    • Available for work.
    • Ready and willing to accept work immediately.
  • When filing for UI benefits, you must have earned enough wages during the “base period”, a specific 12-month term EDD uses to see if you earned enough wages to establish a UI claim.
  • Your weekly benefit amount will be between $40 to $450 (see “How much you can expect from UI and PUA benefits” below).
  • EDD allows people to file unemployment claims online or by phone, fax or mail.
    • Phone: English 1-800-300-5616

Spanish 1-800-326-8937

Vietnamese 1-800-547-2058

TTY 1-800-815-9387

  • Online:
  • Fax or email:
  • When you file, you will need to have some information handy, for example:
    • Personal information, including your Social Security number
    • Details on your most recent employer, address and phone number, as well as your supervisor’s name
    • The last date you worked and why you’re no longer working,
    • Information on all employers you worked for during the previous 18 months, including details of the company, when you worked there, how much you earned and how many hours you worked per week
  • You will need to answer certification questions every two weeks to continue receiving benefits.
  • You should file your UI claim the first week after you lose your job or have your hours reduced so your benefits aren’t delayed. It can take three weeks or more to process a claim for unemployment benefits and issue payment to most eligible workers. There is also a backlog of these claims so start the unemployment process right away – apply during your first week of unemployment so you don’t lose any benefits!


To assist the millions of Americans who have lost work because of the COVID-19 pandemic but are not covered under existing unemployment protections, Congress passed legislation that would expand unemployment insurance to workers who are not normally eligible for it and provide extra assistance to those who are. The federal CARES act created the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to provide assistance to workers who are business owners, self-employed, independent contractors, and others not usually eligible for UI such as parent or spouse IHSS providers. This pandemic-specific unemployment insurance is being administered by the states. California EDD is running our state’s PUA program.

The benefits of California PUA program include:

  • Up to 39 weeks of benefits starting with weeks of unemployment beginning February 2, 2020, through the week ending December 26, 2020, depending on when you became directly impacted by the pandemic.
  • A new 13-week federal extension for those who run out of their regular state-provided UI benefits (maximum 26 weeks). File a PUA claim and you may be converted to the federal extension once it is available.

How to qualify for PUA

  • You must meet the same basic eligibility as traditional UI: You must be totally or partially unemployed through no fault of your own. You must be able to work, willing to work, and actively seeking work.
  • Your unemployment must be COVID-19-related.

For example:

    • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
    • You are unable to work because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
    • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • A child or other person in the household for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 and the school or facility care is required for you to work.
    • You are unable to care for your IHSS client because they have become ill or died as a direct result of COVID-19.

How much you can expect from UI and PUA benefits

  • The maximum weekly benefit amount in California is $450 and the minimum weekly benefit is $40. How much your weekly benefit will be depends on the wages you earned in the past during a specific period of time called a base period.
    • There is a UI calculator available on the EDD website:
      • For example, for a provider who works 99 hours a month (IHSS average) at $13, your estimated weekly benefit will be $149
      • This on the higher end of the range, but if you work maximum hours, 283 hours at $13, your estimated weekly benefit will be $425
  • For example, if we take the provider who works the average 99 hours a month at $13, your estimated weekly benefit of $149, a usual bi weekly payment would be $298, and with the extra payment from the feds – your biweekly payment would increase to $1498 – almost $1500 every two weeks.

If you are denied UI or PU

  • If you’re denied benefits that you feel you’re eligible for, talk to the department again and ask to appeal the decision. Another hearing will likely be called.
  • Reach out to your local UDW office. Find your office at or 1-800-621-5016.


If you qualify for unemployment insurance, that means you need it. During these hard economic times, it’s tempting to say “I don’t have it as bad as other people”. But, if you become partially or fully unemployed, the best thing you can do for your family or community is to take advantage of unemployment insurance to keep up to date on your bills and make sure you are healthy and safe. Always remember your union is here for you; we are Caregiver Strong, and we will get through this together.