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Thriving during unemployment

Updated: Dec 20, 2018

Laid off unexpectedly?  Terminated? Had to leave your job because #iwanttolikemylifeagain?


Been there, done that. All of that.


Planned or unplanned, losing your job (read: income, community, and even sense of self) and benefits is scary.  However, with knowledge comes power. Living in California may mean wild amounts of taxes coming out of every paycheck, but now is the moment to reap the benefits from the other side. Millions of dollars meant to support folks in this very moment go unused each year. Aka, money specifically for people who need unemployment and healthcare benefits sits there waiting to be requested. SO: if you are in this moment of life, whether by choice or not, scared or not, I’d like to support you in taking advantage of what is available for your mental, physical, and financial health!  I have seen technically savvy and intelligent friends skip or miss out on these benefits because all of the processes are exactly what you’d expect from the government: slow, jenky + unnecessarily complicated (but we still appreciate you, CA, thank you!).  Just take a few hours and get it over with. You can take advantage of only one benefit or all you qualify for (you don’t need one to get the others). Also you will notice the info below is most relevant to single folks with no dependents who are located in CA, but I recommend doing some research to find what is available for your circumstances!


UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS:

If you were laid off or terminated without warning and worked at your company for 6+ months, you will likely qualify for unemployment.  The website sucks and applying requires a good amount of documentation / data input, but it’s worth the additional income as you search for your next gig (and searching for a job is a requirement to receive funds).  The amount you receive is dependent upon your previous role and it is capped at $450/week (which you can choose to not tax). Your benefits last for 12 months, but if you certify each week, they will only get you 6 months of payment.  You can take temporary jobs and continue to receive benefits (though you may not qualify if you make over a certain amount in a week, they use some math equation to figure that out). You essentially get a pot of money and when you take it is up to you, but once it’s gone, that is it.  I am not versed in what else you need to qualify, definitely check out the site!


Start here:

  1. Navigate to https://edd.ca.gov

  2. File an Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claim: .https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/Filing_a_Claim.htm

  3. If you have a laptop (mobile is not worth the trouble), you will likely choose to file via their online platform.  But you can call in or use fax / snail mail.

  4. DO NOT FORGET YOUR LOGIN + PASSWORD.

  5. Check your regular mail often.  

  6. There are often requests for other documentation you will need to have + provide in order to certify and receive benefits.

  7. Your debit card will be sent via mail.  You want this!

  8. You need to upload your resume to their Resume Builder CalWorks site.  It is a massive pain in the ass but you can’t get benefits without an updated resume.  They will mail info on this.

  9. You will certify every two weeks via the website.  You do not need to input every role you applied to (but do keep track in case they request them).  

  10. You can withdraw funds from Bank of America (perhaps other institutions as well) and use it as a debit card.

  11. If things are not working for you, just call them.  Seriously, it’s not worth struggling with the website, just call them. 1-800-300-5616 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon (Pacific time), Monday through Friday, except on state holidays.

Medi-Cal / Covered California Benefits:

If your insurance ends with your employment, you will want to apply for Covered California (insurance benefits).  Cobra is insanely expensive, so no thank you. Because end of employment (for any reason) is considered a “qualifying life event”, you can enroll at any time of the year.  If you have $0 income (or under a certain amount, unsure what the line is), you will qualify for Medi-Cal, which is free. If you make over a certain amount, you will be offered Covered California.  Either way, they use the same application.

  1. Navigate to https://www.coveredca.com.

  2. Apply: https://www.coveredca.com/apply/.

  3. You need to create an account.

  4. This process also requires a ton of information.  Including: proof of qualifying event, ID, names of bank accounts / other financial accounts, proof of income (if any), etc.  

  5. Prepare for an onslaught of paper documentation mailed to your address.  Again, they often request proof of certain things, make sure to get them everything or you will not get insurance.  

  6. Instead of mailing things back (who has a printer these days?!), you can email them images: sfmedi-cal@sfgov.org (put your case number in subject line).

  7. You can call them and they are always kind: 415-863-9892.

  8. For healthcare options (there is SF Health Plan that partners with Kaiser and Anthem Blue Cross) call here: 1-800-430-4263.

  9. If you are already on SF Health Plan: 1-800-288-5555.  If you want Kaiser to be your provider, you have to request that specifically.   

Food Stamps / CalFresh:

After you apply for health insurance, they suggest other benefits.  You can decide which make sense for you based on your circumstance. Food stamps require more than the other processes.  They dig into your finances and require a 45 minute pre-scheduled interview. If you get the max for unemployment, you will get about $15/month for food stamps.  While this seems like it may not be worth it, the benefit to doing the process upfront is that if you run out of unemployment, you are already receiving food stamps and can submit a request for review, which will likely get you more funds if you are still unemployed.  

  1. More on CalFresh: https://www.sfhsa.org/services/health-food/calfresh

  2. Apply here: https://www.mybenefitscalwin.org

  3. Their number is 415-558-4700.

  4. Email is food@sfgov.org.

Lifeline Muni Bus Pass:

If your income is $24,280 or lower for single income household, you can get 50% off your monthly Muni pass ($39/month).  Your ID card for this is good for two years. And let me tell ya, riding dirty on Muni and getting caught comes with a $125 price tag, womp.  

  1. SF Residents currently receiving Medi-Cal or EBT benefits can bring proof of residence and current Medi-Cal or EBT benefit card to SFMTA Customer Service Center at 11 South Van Ness Ave to receive a lifeline ID card and purchase discounted monthly sticker for Muni only service.

  2. Other options if you are not receiving above benefits + details here: https://www.sfmta.com/fares/lifeline-pass

There are other programs out there!  Especially if you have dependents. Google the hell out of them + apply.  All of these systems are connected, so once you get going, it is pretty consistent across requests and you become numb to the pain in the pain in the ass-edness.

Good luck!   


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