A lot has changed over the past few years. There are new rules and ways of doing things. In fact, there is not really a need to go to an unemployment office any more.
Janice Carter recently went to an Employment Development Office in Concord for the first time. She is applying for unemployment benefits and looking for work. The office in Concord is often packed, as are the offices in San Francisco and Sacramento.
"It is kind of scary," she said, at the same time adding, "Everybody is really, really helpful."
As far as what Carter can expect from the office, the top weekly payment available in California is $475.
"If there are no eligibility issues you will receive that first check within three weeks of applying for benefits. That is the quickest it can be done according to law," explained Loree Levy with the Employment Development Department.
There is no need to actually come into an office. People can apply for benefits online or by phone. People can also use the phones and computers available at the offices. Applicants are asked about their employment history and in order to collect, they must have been working legally.
"I had some questions about some of the things they ask you on the website, and it is kind of intimidating because they tell you if you answer them wrong, they are going to penalize you or you won't get your benefits," Carter said.
For Janice Carter, she's better safe than sorry. Once she is signed up she will have to keep checking back with the EDD.
"Then, you get this continued claim form that you have submit to us every two weeks saying, 'Yes, I am still unemployed, able, available and looking for work.' You certify that for us and send it in and you get another check every two weeks," Levy explained.
Because the unemployment rate is so high in California, people in the program can receive those checks for 79 weeks.
The best reason to go to the office in person is to look for work or training opportunities. There is also a great deal of job hunting help and support.