Taking night classes while accepting unemployment
February 24, 2011 12:27 AM   Subscribe

A friend wishes to take night classes while accepting California unemployment insurance checks. He's scared that he'll be caught, because of question 5 on the EDD grid: Did you begin attending any kind of school or training?

I talked to someone at EDD about this for my own benefit in early 2009, asking specifically: is it okay for me to take night classes while I accept EDD and look for work? I was told that it was okay. This was a phone conversation, though; not a written request and reply.

My friend is very frightened that he'll be caught out doing something illegal. I plan to direct him to the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center. Meanwhile, has anyone here found themselves denied benefits due to taking night classes?
posted by goofyfoot to Law & Government (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
is there a reason why he hasn't spoken to them about the issue himself?
posted by violetk at 12:30 AM on February 24, 2011

I don't know of one and didn't think to ask. I think he's afraid to raise any issue that might imperil his unemployment checks, which are all that keeps him from homelessness. He's keeping his head down.
posted by goofyfoot at 12:49 AM on February 24, 2011

From the California EDD website:

Can I attend school or training and receive UI benefits?

The California Training Benefits program allows qualified individuals to continue to receive benefits while in approved training. For more information:

Contact EDD (select UI information, then when prompted, press zero to speak with a representative)

Review our California Training Benefits fact sheet

Review the Get Training - Individuals section on this Web site

Individuals who attend school or training and are not participating in the California Training Benefits program, may qualify for UI benefits if they continue to actively seek work. The Department determines if the individual is entitled to UI benefits.

It sounds like he can attend school as long as he is meeting his obligations to actively seek work, but he'll need to call them to make sure.
posted by amyms at 1:11 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

He should definitely contact them -- most states WANT unemployed adults to further their education, though of course there are limits. I teach at a community college in Illinois and I sign benefits forms for students ALL THE TIME (proving attendance) whose benefits can be extended if they're going to class, or who qualify for particular unemployment programs because of enrollment, or whatever.

He may be MISSING OUT on EXTRA benefits for going to school by NOT contacting them and, if he's interested, there may be programs to help him go full-time. Information doubtless covered in amyms's links.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:30 AM on February 24, 2011

Definitely contact them. My partner got free classes at the local community college while on unemployment on CA. It's worth looking into.
posted by Zophi at 7:25 AM on February 24, 2011

When I was unemployed a couple years ago in CA, the distinction seemed to be that schooling shouldn't interfere with your ability to work. So, since night classes are generally held outside of normal working hours and many working people take them, they don't count against collecting benefits. I freely stated on my claim forms that I was taking night classes for a drafting program and never had a problem with it.
posted by LionIndex at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2011

Echoing everyone else: in Texas, the exact wording is "Did you attend school or training during this claim period?" and then if you say yes, "Did your school or training prevent you from accepting full-time work?"

At minimum, he is okay to *ask* whether this would affect benefits and how to describe his situation correctly on his claim.
posted by hansbrough at 8:23 AM on February 24, 2011

In New York about 20 years ago, you could collect UI for twice as long if you went back to school full time while you were out of work. Your friend should definitely check into whether California has a similar program.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:18 AM on February 24, 2011

One thing that should be mentioned: It's nearly impossible to call EDD in California, or at least it was a couple years ago when I needed to contact them. I tried calling every day for a month, and only once was I able to even access their phone menu (instead of being told that they had too many calls right off the bat). Once in the phone menu, I was told there were too many calls for anyone to take mine.

In the Contact EDD page linked above, there is a way to get to an email form that you can submit to EDD instead giving a description of your issue. Someone from EDD will call you back in a day or two. If you're not available to take the call, they'll probably set up an appointment for a phone conversation with you. The issue at hand here might be simple enough that they wouldn't need to go that far.
posted by LionIndex at 11:43 AM on February 24, 2011

FWIW, California EDD required me to come in a couple of days ago for a class where they covered things like this.

The instructor said the official word is that you should mark that you're in school or training. They'll setup a phone interview. During the interview you tell them that you're in night school and you normally work days so there's no conflict. Then they start sending you checks again. He noted that there will be a delay in the checks while this is worked out (likely a couple of weeks).

He also said that unofficially you could just avoid checking the box and they'll probably never know.

In any case, I recommend calling them and talking to someone. Their new phone tree makes talking to a person very obscure. In the class they handed out a sheet of paper detailing how to talk to someone. Here's the summary:


Dial 1, 3, 2, 6 (for English) or 2,3,2,6 (for Spanish). The system will not accept the 2 nor the 6 until the entire menu at that point is listed.

The instructor said the shortest wait times can be just before they open and during lunch. Peak times are Friday afternoon and Monday morning.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 11:51 AM on February 24, 2011

More anecdata from this CA EDD recipient..

2 years ago I lost my job and decided to go back to school at the same time. I declared on the weekly claim form that I had begun school or training, and mailed it in. This caused my benefits to be interrupted. I received a letter stating I had been scheduled for a telephone interview to "discuss changes in my claim", 5 weeks in the future. I was unable to collect UI during this period.
During the phone interview, I was asked to detail out the classes I was taking and the hours I was in school. This is interpreted to be 'hours I am unavailable to work'. Because I was taking daytime classes I was told I would likely be considered no longer eligible for UI, until I explained to them that my field (IT Helpdesk/Customer Svc etc) is a 24/7 field and that I would be willing to drop classes if I found a job. That was sufficient enough for them to allow me to continue my claim. As each semeser has come and gone, however, I have not checked that box again to indicate the beginning of each term; rather I choose to interpret it as continuous so I don't flag myself for review again.

To be clear, your friend should disclose the fact they have started school or anything else that might affect their claim. CA EDD will jump on any and every reason to flag your claim for review and disrupt your benefits. Just be aware that they may not send your next check for a while.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:54 AM on February 24, 2011

CA EDD told me specifically that evening/weekend and online classes are fine. They just want you looking for a job from 8am to 5pm, Mon-Fri. Anything after 5pm is considered evening classes. So you don't have to say that you started classes on your forms as long as they are online or evening/weekend classes. If you do it'll just create a headache for them and you because they'll have to have a phone interview about it and delay your checks for nothing.
posted by wherever, whatever at 5:17 PM on February 24, 2011

Thank you all very much. This sounds very encouraging (your initial problem aside, ApathyGirl). I'm sending this thread to him. If he decides to make contact with EDD, I'll post whatever response he relays to me.
posted by goofyfoot at 9:28 PM on February 24, 2011

LionIndex - or anyone - re calling EDD, I posted this in askme in Feb of 2010:

There is a trick to getting a human on the line at EDD. Call 1-800-300-5616. If the greeting is "Thank you for calling. . ." hang up and redial. If the answer is "Welcome to the. . . " press 12117. If you're told after the next greeting that you have x number of minutes to wait, you're in the line for a human. I got this info from a CA EDD worker and it's worked for me this past month.
posted by goofyfoot at 9:41 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, remind your friend to document EVERY phone conversation with 'em in writing: date, time, first name of the EDD employee w/ whom he speaks, and summary of discussion. ApathyGirl is right - they will do anything they can to delay or deny a claim, especially this year, with CA teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Such documentation is not incontrovertible proof for your case, but it looks good if you have to appeal a benefits denial because of a mistake or misunderstanding on EDD's part.
posted by Kibby at 6:00 PM on February 25, 2011

There is a trick to getting a human on the line at EDD. Call 1-800-300-5616. If the greeting is "Thank you for calling. . ." hang up and redial. If the answer is "Welcome to the. . . " press 12117. If you're told after the next greeting that you have x number of minutes to wait, you're in the line for a human. I got this info from a CA EDD worker and it's worked for me this past month.

OK, but I would have only been able to press 12117 once in the month that I spent calling. If you've had more opportunities than that, things have gotten better.
posted by LionIndex at 9:10 PM on February 28, 2011

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