Today I chatted with a friend who is facing a situation shared by far too many of us over the past year or so — a recent layoff. In this case, from a longtime trade.
He recognizes that perhaps the best move to protect his family’s future is to leave what he sees as a declining industry and seek training in a stronger one. His dilemma: how to do this without losing his unemployment benefits? To receive unemployment benefits, the recipient needs to be actively seeking work, and be available for work.
Well, thanks to the federal Workforce Investment Act, unemployment insurance recipients have the option to seek retraining and continue to receive unemployment benefits while pursuing approved retraining.
The catch? You can’t just enroll in any class or educational program. You have to enroll in an educational program approved by your state labor agency.
In California, this agency is the Employment Development Department (if you live and work in another state, check with your local labor agency). EDD provides an online database, albeit a slightly outdated one, to search for approved training providers and programs.
EDD’s approved programs consist of vocational retraining opportunities, short-term courses and certifications geared towards getting you back into the workforce in about one year or less. These opportunities consist of everything from massage therapists to truck drivers to database administrators, and are offered by vocational schools as well as colleges.
I myself am currently deciding between a few technical web-related certifications.
What EDD does not include are matriculated degree programs. You can’t earn an associates, bachelors, or graduate degree through WIA training funds.
But, before you actually enroll in any of these approved programs, be sure to double check with EDD (or your state’s local agency). Just because EDD lists these pre-approved opportunities on their web site, I would not advise taking the risk of possibly delaying payment of your unemployment benefits by simply enrolling in a program. Double check with an EDD representative first just to be safe.
I know, I know. It can be pretty much impossible to get a hold of an actual live EDD representative right now. So let me give you one more little piece of advise. If you’ve filed an Unemployment Insurance claim and are having trouble getting help from EDD, contact your state assemblymember’s district office. EDD is a state agency, so your assemblymember has a caseworker who can help constituents with these issues.