As Federal Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Expire, Californians Can Connect to County-Delivered Recovery Programs

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Going to the grocery store, putting gas in the car. These everyday necessities would have been impossible for millions of Californians who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic were it not for the financial lifeline of federal unemployment benefits.

While most extensions and increases to these federal benefits expired September 4, 2021, affecting an estimated three million California workers, there are still opportunities to get help recovering from this crisis.

California counties will play a critical role in helping Californians – and our state – recover.

New census data illustrate how robust federal relief amidst the pandemic “moved millions of Americans out of poverty last year, even as the official poverty rate increased slightly,” the Associated Press reported.  In contrast to the Great Recession, when California slashed support for struggling Californians, both the state and federal governments significantly amped up direct support for workers and families affected by the pandemic, preventing even greater disaster.

What’s next for workers who lost federal unemployment benefits?

In partnership with state agencies and community organizations, county human services agencies are reaching out to let Californians know they may be eligible for help.  You can help a friend, constituent or loved one by sharing these resources.

What help is available through California counties?

County human services agencies connect Californians with safety net services including food assistance, cash aid, and health insurance.  Eligibility requirements apply.

  • Cash aid and services for families with children (CalWORKs) and other cash relief (General Relief/General Assistance) for those without children.
  • Help paying for food via CalFresh
  • Health coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California

Is it hard to get help?

County human services agencies have worked hard to make sure you can learn what benefits you may be eligible for and apply in the way that is easiest for you.  Online, in-person and phone options are all accessible.

Online: is a good first stop to see available benefits and apply; there you can connect to the application portal for the county where you live.    

Phone or in-person: Look up your county here to find county human services office locations and phone numbers.

Who can apply?

County human services agencies are here to help, even if you’ve never applied for nutrition, cash or health care benefits before.  You aren’t facing these challenges alone – a county eligibility worker can guide you in finding out if you qualify for these benefits.   

If you are already enrolled in Medi-Cal or a Covered California health plan, make sure to report changes in unemployment benefits because this could lower your health coverage costs.

What else should I know?

California established two significant programs to provide extra support to millions of  Californians harmed by the economic effects of the pandemic.

  • Housing is Key will pay up to 100% of rent and utility payments missed during the pandemic. Learn more at or by phone at 1-833-430-2122.
  • California residents who file a California tax return by October 15, 2021 (even if not required) can receive $600-$1200 in Golden State Stimulus payments.  Read more here: Golden State Stimulus or call 1-800-845-6500.