Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

 

Out of Work Due to Covid19? There Are Benefits For You!

Pennsylvania Launches Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

In response to Covid19, a new unemployment benefit program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is available to workers who are not eligible for regular Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation (UC).  

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions about PUA

Check out our FAQ on Weekly Certifications for PUA

PUA covers:

  • Independent contractors or freelancers
  • Self-employed business owners
  • Gig workers 
  • Workers without enough work history to qualify for UC
  • Individuals without work history who had a job offer that was withdrawn due to Covid19 or that they cannot start because of Covid19 

Additionally, anyone who is not eligible for regular UC should be eligible for PUA.  If you have lost your job, lost business, had your hours reduced, or been unable to work due to the Covid19 crisis: 

YOU SHOULD APPLY FOR PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE

PUA will provide 39 weeks of:

  • Weekly PUA benefits ranging from $195 to $561 
  • An additional $600 per week from April through July

Do NOT Apply for Regular Unemployment Compensation

The PUA Application is available online at www.uc.pa.gov.

Follow www.facebook.com/PALaborIndustry  or www.facebook.com/philalegal for updates and announcements

To apply for PUA, you should collect:

Documentation of Wages/Earnings

Including but not limited to:

  • Tax returns
  • Paycheck stubs
  • Bank receipts
  • Ledgers
  • Contracts 
  • Invoices
  • Billing statements

Please note, if you are not able to upload documentation when you file your initial application for PUA, that is okay.  You are also able to upload documentation in the PUA portal.

As of now, PUA is ending on December 26, 2020. 

Did You Get a Notice of UC Benefit Exhaustion?

Be careful, this letter is confusing.

I’m running out of PUA benefits, are there any more benefits for me?

No. The government automatically provided 39 weeks of PUA benefits. You could run out of your 39 weeks before December 26. 

You are not eligible for any extension programs for PUA. The 13 week federal extension (PEUC) was already built into the program, and Extended Benefits (EB) is only for regular state UC.

I am still waiting for PUA benefits, can I get them after December 26?

Yes. You should not lose the right to those benefits after December 26.

If the government finds you eligible for those weeks, you will still be paid your base PUA benefits and any supplemental benefits for weeks of unemployment prior to December 26.  

What should I do if I am a W2 worker my PUA benefits end?

Apply for regular unemployment compensation to see if you may now be eligible for regular unemployment compensation.

Did you lose work prior to the week you opened your PUA claim?

You can request that your claim be “backdated” so that your benefits accurately reflect your period of unemployment.

How to Request Backdating:

  • Call the PUA Call Center at 855-284-8545.
    OR
  • Email ucpua@pa.gov
    • Include "Back Date Request" in the subject line of the email.
    • Provide exact dates and how COVID-19 affected your employment or self-employment for the additional weeks you wish to claim.
    • You only need to send one email request.

Did Your PUA Account Go “In Progress”?

Watch your dashboard for a message about using a program called “ID.me” to release frozen (“in progress”) benefits!  ID.me is not a scam.  You can verify your identity in several minutes.  You need to do this even if you already uploaded identity documents to your portal.  Your benefits should be released in the following days after you use it.  Use ID.me even if you uploaded identity documents before.

July 12, 2020 Update on PUA Claims

If the PUA system told you to file a regular unemployment compensation claim, you must follow that instruction, even if you believe you are not eligible for UC or were previously found ineligible for UC.

On July 5, the unemployment system switched to the 3rd quarter of 2020. This means that the government will now consider W-2 income from the time period of April 2019 - March 2020 when evaluating financial eligibility for all new regular UC claims filed on or after July 5.

This means that many PUA applicants who could not collect regular UC because they were financially ineligible (meaning you had not earned enough wages to qualify) may now be eligible for UC.

If you are eligible for UC, you must collect UC instead of PUA.  That is what the law requires.

Even if you do not think you will be eligible for UC, or you are self-employed with W-2 wages, you must still go file a UC claim. The PUA system will not let you through again until there is a new determination finding you ineligible for regular UC.  There is nothing we can do at Philadelphia Legal Assistance to change that.

After you apply for a regular UC claim, you should follow the instructions on your confirmation email or letter and begin filing biweekly claims on the regular UC system.  If you do not already have one, you will receive a PIN number in the mail to use for filing biweekly UC claims.  

You will be able to use direct deposit if you are eligible for regular UC.  If you choose to use a debit card, you will be able to use the same one sent to you for your PUA benefits.

There will be a delay before you start receiving UC benefits.  However, you will still receive the extra $600 for every week through July 25, 2020 when you receive your benefits.

Do you disagree with your Weekly Benefit Amount for PUA?

PUA claimants can request a redetermination of the weekly benefit amount at any time before the program ends in December 2020.  If you are found to be eligible for a higher rate, you will receive the difference in back benefits after the new determination is issued.

For instructions on how to undertand weekly benefit rates and how to request a redetermination, check out:

PLA's Guide To Challenging Your PUA Weekly Benefit Amount

How Do I file Weekly Certifications?

Check out our FAQ on Weekly Certifications for PUA

What does my Notice of Monetary Determination say?

The Department of Labor and Industry has begun issuing Notices of Monetary Determination for PUA benefits.

These notices are based on the information you provided about your 2019 income during the initial application.  You can find your Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) at the end of the first paragraph:

You can find an annotated example of a Monetary Determination here.

Underneath that, you should see the income you reported during your initial application.  Here are some important notes about income and WBA:

  • If you did not have any income in 2019 or had minimal income, you automatically qualify for $195 a week.
  • Your WBA is calculated based on gross W2 earnings + net self-employment earnings and depends on your highest quarter of earnings 

Documentation

If you did not upload documentation during your initial application that establishes the income listed on your monetary determination, you should login to the PUA Portal and upload it.  Despite what the notices say, you have until December 30, 2020 to upload supporting documentation.  

What to Do if You Disagree with the WBA

The weekly benefit amount is (or should be) based on your 2019 income (net income for self-employed, gross income for W2 workers). The system is evaluating lots of claimants for the base rate of $195 even if it should be higher based on the quarterly net income or 2019 W2 wages reported during the application.  We do not understand yet why this is happening.

However, PUA claimants can request a redetermination of the weekly benefit amount by uploading documentation of your 2019 income in the PUA portal.  You should receive a new Monetary Determination, although we expect responses from DLI to be rather slow at the moment.

If that does not work, every claimant has the right to appeal their monetary determination.  The appeal deadline is 60 days from the date of the monetary determination.  Appeals can be emailed to ucappeals@pa.gov.

What About the Extra $600?

You will get that automatically.  It is not included in your WBA.  You will receive "back benefits" for the extra $600 for every week you file for starting with the week ending April 4, 2020.  You will then receive the extra $600 a week through the end of July.  Think of it this way, if you qualify for $195, you will actually be receiving $795 a week

Many people are struggling with the PUA applicaton.  If you have feedback about your experience, please share it with us.