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Can You Go From California State Disability to California State Unemployment?

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If you are not working through no fault of your own, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits in California. However, you can't already be receiving state disability insurance, or SDI. This money is reserved for those who can't work because of a disability or because they need to care for a family member. Once you are no longer receiving SDI, you can then apply for unemployment benefits provided you are able, willing and available to work.

Disability or Care for Family Member

SDI provides temporary benefits to employees who cannot work because of a disability not caused by the job. Paid family leave, or PFL, is also part of the SDI program, which provides benefits to employees who must take off work to care for an ill relative or new child. Employees pay into the SDI program through payroll deductions.

Available and Capable of Working

California pays unemployment compensation to residents who are out of work through no fault of their own. To qualify, residents must be available for work, ready and willing to accept work immediately and physically capable of working. A person receiving SDI benefits, be it for a disability or to care for a family member, would not qualify for unemployment benefits because he cannot meet these requirements. Additionally, California prohibits the payment of SDI and unemployment benefits at the same time.

Unemployment Requires Sufficient Past Income

Since you cannot receive both SDI and unemployment compensation at the same time, you must wait until you are no longer receiving SDI benefits to apply for unemployment benefits. In addition to the able, available and willing to work requirement, you must have earned enough wages within the past 18 months to qualify for unemployment. The Employment Development Department, or EDD, uses this information to calculate your earnings during a 12-month period, known as your base period, to determine your weekly claim amount. For example, if you file for unemployment during April, May or June, EDD will determine the amount of your weekly benefits based on your earnings between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of the previous year.

Lack of Income for Unemployment Claim

If you are out of work for one year or more, you may not qualify for unemployment compensation because you likely don't have sufficient past earnings. Generally, you must have received at least $1,300 in wages during the highest-earning quarter of your base period. You will also qualify if you earned at least $900 during your highest quarter and your overall base period earnings are 1.25 times more than this. If you don't qualify for unemployment based on this standard calculation, EDD will use an alternative one that looks at your earnings for the last four quarters immediately before the date you filed for unemployment.


Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.

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