The California unemployment office is a fiasco

Updated: A lot of people have been stumbling across this post after becoming frustrated with the California EDD. Scroll down to read the comments for some help, and my tip about emailing the EDD.


Back in August, I was laid off from my job as a geologist for an environmental consulting firm here in the San Francisco Bay Area (1, 2). Fortunately, I was able to receive unemployment benefits that lasted roughly 6 months. Unfortunately, there were no permanent jobs to be acquired during that time. I was able to take on some side projects shooting photos for UCSF and running some events for Photojojo.

However, my unemployment finally ran out at the end of February. The Employment Development Department (EDD) let me know that I could go ahead and reapply for benefits online.

And that’s where the trouble began.

Due to a dating problem with the last unemployment check, I received a form that said my benefits were not exhausted and therefore my extension wasn’t granted. What? My last check said my benefits *were* exhausted and I should reapply!

Anyway, you can’t call the EDD because their phone lines are swamped. So I reapplied online and was finally granted an extension after a week. I filled out the standard form they send you to prove you’re looking for work (the same form I had been filling out every week for the previous 6 months).

Then I received a letter in the mail.

“Your previous unemployment form was either incomplete or incorrect. Please fill out this new one.”

Fantastic! No idea what was wrong with it, since it could have been either incomplete *or* incorrect. Carefully looked over the new one and sent that in as well.

Another week goes by and I receive a new letter from the EDD.

“Your previous unemployment form was either incomplete or incorrect. Since your prior form was also incomplete or incorrect, you current benefit claim has been terminated. Please contact the EDD immediately to open a new claim.”

Great! So I call the EDD and listen to their long winded recording that lists every possible thing that could go wrong. Basically, every solution involves reapplying for benefits online.

So I did that. A week and a half ago. Haven’t heard back anything yet! My previous online claims were responded to within about 5 days.

It’s now been 6 weeks without an unemployment check, I cannot talk to anyone at the EDD to find out what’s going on, jobs are impossible to find, and I have about $80 left to my name. What on Earth am I supposed to do?

Update: [Dec 29, 2009] It’s been awhile, but I figured I should update the post with what I ultimately did.

What ended up working for me was directly contacting them through their email form. It surprised me that they even HAD one. But after 3 days, someone responded to me and things were quickly resolved! They mentioned a check was on the way and that my benefits had been extended.

In my email to them, I basically listed my situation and what I had done up until that point. I listed all relevant info I could find: case numbers, date of last check, dates of reapplying for UI benefits, etc.

The extended benefits lasted until August 2009, but by then I had found steady work. I actually received a letter stating that I could apply for a *third* round of benefits, but declined.

Anyway, that might be the best bet at the moment.

33 Replies to “The California unemployment office is a fiasco”

  1. It might sound silly but call the Governor’s office, explain that you have been trying to reach someone for weeks. They will put you through to the EDD Director’s office. They will then take your information and someone will call YOU back. It used to only take 24 hours but its a little longer now that more & more folks are figuring this trick out. But it will get you somewhere.

    Hope this helps!!!

  2. If you are in immediate need of help, you can go to the EDD office on Turk Street. Their phone banks there for the public’s use take priority over private phone lines trying to get through. It took me a couple of hours one afternoon, but at least it’s something and it’s fairly immediate.

  3. I can understand your horrible experience. I lost my job in January and have been looking ever since. I lost my home and everything else. I try ti get to the next next with my 2 little kids. With one of my kids being autisic makes it even hard because his needs meds and the medi cal insurence does not cover the $149 a month med. My husband went to DC for a small job and sends everything that he could but now our family is just apart and the EDD makes everything just impossible.

  4. Unemployed Mama has it right: call the Governor’s office. Tell them your delima (i.e. – can’t get ahold of or return call/email from anyone for weeks on end). You are then told you called the right place: they are receiving tons of these calls. They take your name, number, SS# and brief problem details and forward it to the EDD Director’s office. Someone should get to you within 3-5 business days.

    haven’t got to the 3-5 days as of yet, but i did get someone with a pulse, a good attitude, an expression of empathy and a promise to make something happen. we’ll see how this works out…has to be better than the alternative…which leads absolutely no where….

    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
    State Capitol Building
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    Phone: 916-445-2841

    PS. – also sharing a phone-in trick (which can work if you don’t get the dreaded “due to the number of callers already waiting to speak to representatives…”), posted by thinkSketch at

    1. Call their non-automated customer service number located on their website: 800 300 5616. (without knowing a little trick, this number will always feed you an automated message for 4 minutes before telling you they are too busy and just hangs up on you)

    2. If the first word you hear on the recorded message isn’t “welcome” – hang up and try again until you hear “welcome.”

    3. If you hear “welcome” then dial 130 (140 also works). This will get you a representative rather quickly who will then take your information and have someone call you back within a week.

    Yes, you still have to wait a week, but if you don’t go through this process, then the number will just hang up on you after 4 minutes leaving you nowhere.

    Good luck. – thinksketchdesign

    1. Dialing 130 does not work you still hear the long winded messages and have to sit and then enter your information to then hear Due to the number of callers blah blah blah.

      1. This will get you through to someone in under 10 mins and if not on the first try call back immediately and you will get through to someone push random numbers as if you were on the english line then when they pick up be polite and start speaking they will respond in english and help you.

        the Vietnamese language line….


  5. Dialing 130 does work, I got through on the second try and the woman was very nice. She couldn’t access records but she was able to tell me why I had not yet received a check. Just wait for the voice that begins with “Welcome” and push 130, it really does work.

  6. I feel your frustration. I lost my job, paid my fair share of taxes and UE benefits before.
    Here’s my timeline:

    + Immediately filed for UE Benefits online

    + within a week I received letters to fill out (the weekly ones) and I also received a letter stating that I qualified and would receive my first check within 10 days

    + Week later I received another form to fill out for another week. Once again I filled that I did look for work (which I do) and that I didn’t have any income.

    (still waiting for that check…)

    + Another letter and once again I filled out the form. They all have different dates so I assume it is a weekly thing to fill out.

    (by now I really could use that UE check they told me would arrive about 2 weeks ago)

    + received a letter with date 11/10 in which it states I have 21 days to fill out my CalJobs on their site to make me available for work. Thus far I used the newspaper and online (e.g. Monster) to look for jobs. Now the best thing…that letter was postmarked 11/18 and I received it around the 23rd (plus minus a day). I IMMEDIATELY went online to fill it out.

    + Meanwhile I get a letter from EDD:
    “Your original claim form for the week(s) ending 11-21-09 was incomplete or incorrect. The duplicate form was also incomplete or incorrect. Please call 1-800-300-5616 immediately but no later than 12-09-09 before payments can continue. If you are not claiming benefits for this period, you may reopen your claim and continue benefits.”
    I never received anything stating I filled anything out incorrectly. In fact after I filled out my first form(s) I got a letter stating that I qualified and that I would receive my first check within ten days. I was very careful in filling the forms out correctly and seriously doubt that I made a mistake.

    That said I’ve been trying to call EDD immediately. Couldn’t get through. I meanwhile try up to 6hrs a day and can’t get through. Sometimes it’s busy, other times I get the recorded message. Other times I get past the recorded message to the next menu system. It give me hope…until I hear that same message again…”we are receiving more calls…goodbye”…the calls range anywhere from busy to 4min and 10 sec. Most calls I get the “goodbye” after 2min9sec. I dial NONSTOP!

    I also went called the other number and got myself a PIN. Within two days I received a letter stating that I updated my PIN.

    I also went online and use the “contact us” on the EDD website. Wrote my situation hit the submit button and got an error. I use google chrome so I re-wrote the entire thing by using internet explorer. It worked but I haven’t heard from them. It’s been 3 days since I did that and I know they get lots of inquiries. But I do literally anything I can yet still didn’t receive my first check. It’s been 6 weeks since I lost my job and I’m almost going insane dialing and listening to their recorded message non-stop all day long…in hopes of the menu…and then I smile…think I made it only to hear “goodbye” after 4min instead of 2.

    What else can I do?

  7. so I finally got through with the 130 trick…took me only about 2 days or so…finally had a woman on the line that immediately stated that she cannot help me, that’s the conversation began. Then I had to tell her my situation…she said just a second and put me on hold…5min later I hear how I’m being transferred, hear a beep aother beep and then I got disconnected.

    I did call the Governor’s office three days ago and they did take my information, SSN, phone, etc. According to them I should get a call within 3-5 days. It’s the third or fourth day today and the way things are going I just don’t see it happening.

    In the past 5 business days I called about 30+hrs trying to get a hold of anybody and now that I finally made it through I get disconnected. I don’t have the energy anymore to continue today. It’s exhausting. 6 weeks ago I lost my job and although I right away received a letter stating that I qualify for $450 per week I’ve yet to see a single check.

    If you lose your job, consider yourself lucky if you even received your first UE check…

    I’ll try again first thing monday morning.

  8. Has anyone ever tried driving t Sacramento to hand deliver the form?

    I was expecting a check this week and instead got that form saying that I had filled it out incorrect or incomplete and need to do it all over again. That’s fine but now I don’t have money this week so wondering if driving up to Sacramento to deliver the form might make a difference. What do you guys think? The address is a P.O. Box so not sure what to expect once I get up there if I do it.

  9. I read that after you recieve you first denial letter stating that the form was incomplete you will automatically recieve the second denial letter stating that the form is incomplete again this starts the cycle of delay. but I was told that if you list some small amount of earnings on the second form under $ 100.00 that about 80% of the time the dumb idiot on the other end of the line will just process your reduced pmnt.I did this and recieved a check for around $800.00 the edd fund is scheduled to go flat broke in feb of 2010 unless huge loans are taken out by the state at high interest. so for now it seems that if they can reduce your pmnt somewhat they will still cut a couple more checks I hope this works for some of you as it did for me. Good luck as this may not last long with the looming bankruptcy of the edd fund…..

  10. My situation is nearly identical to the ones above. I lost my job as a project engineer. After receiving a check for 1 week worth of unemployment, duplicate paperwork came back stating I incorrectly filled out the last form. So I diligently filled the second set of paperwork out. Six days later, expecting a check the notice said, please contact the EDD office with a phone number. It is impossible to get through on that line! 3 weeks later now so today because of the advice on this blog I contacted my senator’s office, he was helpful and said someone will be getting a hold of me From EDD. All i can do now is wait.

    I sympathize with everyone out there who is going through this situation.

  11. Thank you so much for posting this. I too have been dealing with the “incomplete or incorrect” form crap. And have gone through the whole phone cycle crap to no avail. It’s like a rat maze – it’s full of dead ends and you never can find the cheese – I’m not quite convinced there is any cheese to be found. Is there really a human to talk to on that line? Every thing ends in “were sorry….. goodbye.”

    Whose brilliant idea was it to send paper letters that direct you to a phone line that tells you to go to a website?

    Anyhow, I digress. My story – been on unemployment for longer than I care to admit and have had zero issues until now. Then before the holidays I dropped my form in the mail on a thursday rather than friday (it was a holiday people!). So I got my first “you screwed up” letter/form and filled that out. I was uber careful filling that badboy out so that I didn’t get another similar slap-on-the-wrist letter. But nope, apparently I screwed up (or they screwed up but that doesn’t fix the fact that I haven’t gotten paid in a month). So now I’m in this cycle of hell that is the 800-300-5616 number. I”ve tried at least 20x a day for four days, and I have to get through by the 21st. I have written down just about every possible combination of phone selections they offer!

    I will try your “tricks” tomorrow and/or attempt to visit the EDD office in SF. Will report back.

    How do they expect me to actually look for a job if I’m on hold all day long? Yeesh.

  12. THANK GOD! I know this is frustrating I just filed my claim over the phone it only took me about two hours, I must have googled every trick out there. I even did the vietnamise line but that was no help. I suggest trying the 130 or 140 trick within those two hours I got through twice using the 130 wait a second….. ok yes they answered but it was silence, thought they hung up. So I suggest trying the 130 140 trick. it did me wonders!

  13. Just in case people don’t see my updated blurb in the post, here’s something I tried:

    What ended up working for me was directly contacting them through their email form. It surprised me that they even HAD one. But after 3 days, someone responded to me and things were quickly resolved! They mentioned a check was on the way and that my benefits had been extended.

    In my email to them, I basically listed my situation and what I had done up until that point. I listed all relevant info I could find: case numbers, date of last check, dates of reapplying for UI benefits, etc.

    The extended benefits lasted until August 2009, but by then I had found steady work. I actually received a letter stating that I could apply for a *third* round of benefits, but declined.

    Anyway, that might be the best bet at the moment.

  14. Called the EDD at 800 300 5616, and as soon as you hear “welcome” dial 104. This worked the first time for me. Only a 4min hold time. Thanks for the info christopher michael!

  15. I also received the ‘incorrect or incomplete’ mail. And I tried the ‘130’ trick about 4 times, and it got me through! I talked to a very nice lady and she helped me solve the issue pretty fast (it turned out I mailed back the form too early – you have to submit it after all two weeks in the form pass). She also told me that after 8/14, I would be able to submit the claim online weekly (which is awesome), but just do not submit both online and by mail.

    Hope this helps.

  16. i just got the incomplete on my claim i did online this happened right after my fact finding interview any one got any idea i had to fill the claim all over again idk

  17. I have tried the 130, 140, 103, 104 trick that everyone has mentioned and I have had no luck at a;;. I still can not get through to anyone!!

  18. I can’t believe it. After hundreds of calls, I got through to the hold music. But then after waiting for 10 or so minutes, there was silence. It didn’t hang up on me, so I just sat there. 10 minutes of silence pass and THEN I get disconnected. This happened twice. What does the silence mean?? None of the various number variations help me get through. The most annoying part is the messages you CAN’T skip by putting in a number. So every phone call takes at LEAST 4 minutes to get through, to then be told there are too many callers. Thanks for racking up the phone bill of this unemployed person. Any new suggestions out there?

  19. Try Calling the State Capitol Building Phone: 916-445-2841. Press option 6. You will speak to somebody and let them know that you have been calling the EDD office X amount of times and for days, they will put you on a call back list for EDD to call you. It will take 5-6 business days but hey its better than to keep trying. YAY!!! I just called and it worked. The 130 and 140 dont work. Try this method. Good Luck all. Also when they call back they only call once. Be on the look out

    1. nvrmind, It works now.

      The 130 / 140 tricks haven’t worked. trying the email form now, let’s see how long it takes 🙁

  20. This is funny. I get through to live EDD reps on the Vietnamese language line….


    Basically, a random combination of numbers will get you through. Might take a few trys. I just got through within 10 minutes of trying.

    When you reach an individual (who will speak English), tell him/her you have been trying the English language line for X number of days and cannot get through. You have a pressing matter and would they please help? Be polite. Pretty sure they will take your call. Worked for me.

    1. Thank you for this KC. you were right, just dialing this number and pressing random numbers got a representative who spoke english on the phone in under 2 minutes. They do put you on hold though. But I will do this from now on.

      I suggest everyone else try this as the 130,140,104 method does not work. You still have to sit and listen to the automated message and then they hang up on you. So please everyone try the vietnamese number it WORKS!!!!

  21. Yeah the vietnamese number gets me to a representative in under 5 minutes everytime i call. I also emailed the governor twice and emailed the edd about contacting the governer and left voicemails on as many lines i was able to reach needless to say ive been helped but the edd wasnt too happy with my persistance and audacity in pusuing my own money and forcing them to do their damn jobs. Theyre helping me a little but im taking their asses to see the judge for every penny im sick of the edd they are middle men scam artists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *