The Unemployment Card

I’ve been on and off of unemployment (insurance) for the last four years, but last week, I was surprised to find a new debit card in my mailbox instead of the usual biweekly check. California, along with thirty-nine other states, issue pre-paid debit cards to people on unemployment.

Debit Card
Thanks a lot, government.

At first, I was afraid to use the card because I feared some government bureaucrat judging my purchases. “Hmmm, $4 at Starbucks and $9 at Baja Fresh. This person must not be that in need. Let’s slash his benefits by 50%.”

Well, I went and did some actual research instead of idle conspiracy theorizing, and it turns out that the Lease-a-Visa is INCREDIBLE. California has one of the best systems in the country. I just set up an automatic transfer. As soon as the money hits the account, it’s now gonna bounce over to my Wells Fargo account. I can make a transfer every other week, free of charge.

Stay classy, California.

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12 Responses

  1. Hey! I freelance in television and have been doing jobs steadily for almost ten months for one company. Now it’s slowed down and had been an excruciating two months with no work. No one at the company bothered to mention that work slows down with them (to nothing) in the summer, so I had no time to plan. I would work fifteen hour days with a day off every thirty days, so even though I’m “freelance” I really didn’t expect this.

    I was wondering (3 things), I filled out a w9 for the company, but they never asked for deductions etc. just name, address, social. Would I still be able to file for unemployment?

    Also, is there a limit to file after being “laid off”. It’s been two months, does that make a difference?

    Lastly, it has been a while since and I wasn’t even thinking about filing edd, but it’s become desperate. Is the company contacted directly? If so, does it reflect on me badly to be filing if I plan on solely working for that company in the future?

    Thanks so much for ANY help you can give.


  2. Ya…and edd illegally gave all your information to a bank that charges fees for everything… and can alert your otherwise in good standing cards that you have earned low interest rates on that now you are a risk because you are unemployed dumbass… keep thinking they are doing you a favor while they laugh you all the way to thier bank…I am not a fan. It is scandalous not classy.

  3. Hi, I’m applying for my unemployment benefits for the first time and they ask for the last 18 months of employment history. Do you know if I put in each payroll company each time I’ve worked for them (so it’s repeated every now and again), or just once with the dates worked as the full 18 month stretch and then put it the earnings as appropriate for each quarter?

    Also, will I have a problem if I haven’t yet filed my tax return for last year (I did get an extension)? Thanks!

  4. I set up the direct transfer from the BofA account to my WellsFargo account to be automated. Only annoying bit is the delay it takes to actually do it. They sent me an email on Friday saying there were a request to transfer the money. I’m assuming now the money won’t show up in my other account until Monday. Aw well.

  5. The dimmer operator on my last show — a young man very conversant with modern technology — was able to go online with the EDD and redirect his unemployment payments directly into his bank account here in LA. I’m not sure exactly how he managed this — he tried to explain the process, but it all sounded like digital pixie dust to me. Apparently it can be done, though, providing you have the patience and digital chops to wade through the system.

  6. you should have opted for direct deposit into your own banking account. which is what they over in ny

  7. Ashley —

    Whenever you work a payroll job — one which takes Federal and State deductions from your checks — you and your employer pay into the unemployment fund. When you’re laid off or a job comes to an end (standard operating procedure in the film/television industry), you can apply for unemployment over the phone (some people like this) or via the interet, my preferred venue. The EDD goes back six months, then awards your weekly benefit amount based on the most lucrative quarter you enjoyed in the previous year — or put another way, they go back eighteen months , then base your unemployment payments on the best three month period in the succeeding twelve months.

    It’s simpler than it sounds, but you need to have worked for a while at payroll jobs — at least a year — to stand a chance of getting a decent weekly EDD award. If you’ve only worked three months, you’re out of luck.

    Last time I checked, qualifying for the California maximum of $450/week required earning nearly $12,000 in your best quarter. If you earned less, you’ll get less. The first week of a new claim is considered a waiting period, which means you’ll get only one check for the first two weeks — after that, the equivalent of two checks every two weeks will be added to your EDD debit card. A claim is good for 26 weeks over the course of one year from the date you filed. If you get short term employment (and there really is no other kind in the free-lance film/TV world), you must report any and all earnings in the form you send in every two weeks. If you earned significantly more than your weekly award, you won’t get any EDD money for that week, but you haven’t “lost” that money — it just gets added on to the end of your 26 week claim up to the one year point, when the claim expires. You can go on and off unemployment — reopening that same claim — as often as necessary for that one year period.

    Do not — I repeat, DO NOT — try to fuck with the EDD. If you fail to report any traceable income (non-cash jobs), their computers will catch it sooner or later, at which point you’ll have to pay the money back in addition to being denied the right to receive unemployment for a very long time. I know people who this has happened to, and it really hurts. They’ll ding you hard even if you just made an honest mistake, so fill out those forms with care. Play it straight with the EDD, or you’ll be sorry.

    Unemployment is a way of life in this business, and those checks — er, debit card transfers — can be a life saver. Being on unemployment is not nearly as good as working, but it beats living in a cardboard box.

  8. Automatic transfer, eh? How do you set that up? I’ve got the card too and I’d really like to stop going to BofA, having them sneer at me for not having an account, and then taking my money to Wells Fargo.

    I’d also like a job to help avoid this whole matter, but that’s another story.

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