Unemployment Compensation in Pennsylvania FAQs

How do I apply for unemployment?

Apply online at www.uc.pa.gov or call 1-888-313-7284. 

When can I apply for unemployment?

Apply as soon as your employment status changes. The earlier you apply, the earlier you can get benefits. 

Will I be eligible for benefits?

Even if you are unsure, go ahead and apply.  You need to meet these two requirements to be approved for unemployment compensation: 

  1. You need to be financially eligible. You must have enough work history over the last 15 months to qualify for unemployment. If you aren’t sure, still apply.
  2. You have to be unemployed “through no fault of your own.”  If you are not working/working less for any reason that has to do with coronavirus, you are most likely eligible.  

How do I know if I’m able and available for work? Do I need to be able to perform my previous job? What if my job is closed due to COVID-19?


You are able to work if you are mentally and physically capable of working. As long as you would be able to perform some sort of work in your home, if such work was offered to you, you should be able and available. You do not need to be able to do your previous job or any particular type of work. The question is really whether you would be ready, willing and able to work, if work was made available to you. If you could name a job you could do (answering phones, for example), you are able and available. 

Are there any special considerations for pregnant women who deliver while receiving unemployment to avoid an overpayment?


Yes, during the weeks that someone is not able or available to work due to recovery from birth, the claimant can report on her biweekly filings that she is not “able and available” or not file claims.  If she stops filing, she will need to reopen her claim when she wants to file again (that can be done online or over the phone).  She may receive a Notice of Determination in the mail finding her ineligible for the weeks she said she was not able and available -- that is accurate, as long as UC gets the weeks right.  She can reinstate her eligibility by contacting UC by phone or uchelp@pa.gov and informing them she is able to work again.  If she did not submit a doctor’s note to her employer taking her out of work, then she does not need to provide a doctor’s note clearing her for work when she contacts UC.   They may ask for one, so she should stress that she personally determined she was not able to work while she recovered and now feels well enough to work (although a doctor’s note never hurts).
 

If my workplace is still technically open, but I am not working, will I be eligible?


Here are some common reasons your employment may have been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) include:

  • Your employer cut your hours/laid you off because the business is closed/has reduced hours
  • Your employer told you to stay home because you traveled to a country with a high rate of infection
  • You cannot work because you are at high risk (immunocompromised, heart problems, elderly) even though your business is still open
  • You cannot work because you cannot get childcare and schools/daycares are closed  
  • You live/work in a county where the government has recommended mitigation efforts (although your employer has remained open) 

Should I be applying for jobs or going to CareerLink for career counseling?


No. Because of COVID-19, you do not have to complete the work search requirement or sign up with CareerLink.  


What do I do after I file for unemployment compensation? How can I know if I submitted my claim correctly? 

 

  1. Check your mail regularly
  2. Make sure you answer your phone 
  3. Check your voicemail. 

UC usually sends out supplemental questionnaires by mail or calls you to ask you questions.  Return the questionnaire or phone call as soon as you can, otherwise the government may make a decision without information from you.  

 
What do I need to report in my biweekly filings?

 
When you file your biweekly claim, you will be asked if you worked and whether you had earnings. If you worked, report your gross earnings (pre-tax) for work performed each week. You must report wages when they are earned. It doesn’t matter when you are actually paid the money.  

  • Report all earnings, including out of state work.
  • Report any vacation pay or other paid time off (PTO) that you get (unless the pay was loaned by the employer and the pay will need to be earned later/paid back).

How do I calculate gross earnings?


Multiply the number of hours you worked during the week by your hourly wage. 


What if I worked part-time or reduced hours?


You can get partial UC benefits. Check out this flowchart to see if you can still get partial benefits.

How do I check my benefit payments?

Our video on how to check your benefit payments tells you everything you need to know to check your benefit payment history. Watch it now.

What if I receive SSI/SSDI?

You can still be eligible for unemployment. Report any income from unemployment benefits to social security when you get them, but do not report your SSI/SSDI to unemployment as income.

What if I am an independent contractor or “gig” worker?


If you work for an app-based driving company (Uber, Lyft, etc), apply for regular unemployment compensation.

All other gig-workers: apply for PUA. More information on PUA here . You will not be financially eligible for benefits unless you had separate W2 earnings in the last 15 months.  However, you may be misclassified as an independent contractor when you are actually an employee. If you believe you have been misclassified, you can appeal and contest your financial eligibility.


I think I have a UC overpayment (you owe UC money), how is that going to affect my benefits?


Overpayments affect your current claim for UC benefits in a few ways.  Find more information on our overpayments page.

What does financial eligibility mean?


Check out our flowchart and the Department of Labor and Industry's description of financial eligibility to learn what financial eligibility means. 


What if they find me ineligible?


Appeal within 15 days of the mailing date.  You can appeal online, or by email, mail, or fax. Our page about appealing provides more information about how to appeal. Find the online appeal form here.


Should I appeal my Notice of Financial Determination?


Check out our flowchart to see if you should appeal.


How do I appeal my Notice of Financial Determination?


Submit an appeal online here, or email UCAPPEALS@PA.GOV and include the following information:

  • Full name and mailing address
  • The last four digits of your social security number (xxx-xx-1234)
  • A brief paragraph about why you think the government got it wrong, and why you think you should be approved for benefits
  • Attach any paystubs or other evidence of missing wages to the email

I received my Notice of Financial Determination after the appeal deadline had passed, can I still appeal?


Yes.  There was a mailing issue with the Notices of Financial Determination, and the government will take your appeal even if it was late.  Hold onto the envelope with the postmark date.  


I am not a U.S Citizen, can I qualify for Pennsylvania unemployment?


Workers who are legally authorized to work in the United States can qualify for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation.  Submit copies/photos of your work authorization to get benefits.  


Unemployment benefits are not considered in the public charge analysis, they are not a form of cash assistance and will not affect your immigration status.


If you are not a US citizen, and have more questions about how to get unemployment compensation benefits, check out our FAQ section for non-citizens.


I've made the majority of my income driving for Uber or Lyft,  should I apply for UC?


Yes. A recent PA Supreme Court Decision makes you eligible for regular unemployment compensation. Because regular unemployment compensation is based on your gross income, your regular unemployment compensation will most likely be higher than your PUA benefit amount, which is based on net income. Check out our page about gig workers for more information.


How do I get the 24 week extension of my UC benefits called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation?


Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation provides 24 total weeks of extra benefits. File your biweekly claims and you should be automatically switched over to Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). However, only 13 weeks are available to use for any period of unemployment in 2020.  If you exhausted your original 13 weeks in 2020, then you are eligible for an additional 11 weeks starting with week ending January 2, 2020. The program is currently scheduled to end on April 10, 2021.


How do I file for EB benefits?


File online. Do not file through the automated PAT telephone system. You can ask the government to mail you a paper application that you can mail back if you cannot file online.

  • Click the “File an EB claim” button at the bottom of the screen. 
  • Ignore the “inactive” claim status on your account.

If you require legal assistance with your unemployment claim and are a Philadelphia resident, please review our intake procedures.


I still have not received a PIN number, what should I do?


Request a new one with this form if you submitted your initial application over three weeks ago. Note: you can use the PIN number from a former unemployment compensation claim if you have one.


I've been filing my biweekly claims for weeks but have not received any payment, where is my money?

 

  1. The government may be processing your payments. This can take a long time.
  2. You did not make enough money to get benefits. If you do not make enough money, you may not be financially eligible for benefits. The government will send you a letter in the mail to tell you if you made enough money to get benefits. These letters can take a long time to get to you in the mail. 
  3. The government is looking over your reason for losing work. This is called your “separation from employment.” The government looks over your reason if you voluntarily quit your job or were discharged by your employer.
  4. You have an overpayment on your account, and the government is taking your benefits to pay off that overpayment.  Check to see if you have a UC overpayment here.

When I tried to file my biweekly claim, it said my claim was inactive, what should I do?

 

  1. “Re-open" your unemployment claim. See this page for instructions. It will feel similar to filing a new application all over again. 
  2. After you re-open, check back the next day and your weeks should be available to file biweekly claims.
  3. File your biweekly claims.
  4. If you had previously re-opened your claim, but still saw "inactive" every time you tried to file biweekly certifications, go back and try to file a biweekly claim again.  The government fixed this, and all previous re-opens should now be approved.

I was found financially ineligible, what should I do?


You have three options. Read about your options here.


What do I need to do to qualify for the extra $300 a week?


Nothing, the additional $300 a week (PUC) from January 2, 2021 to March 13, 2021 is automatic.   The state has been slowly paying out this money. Your first payment will be "backpay" for every week you filed for, starting with the week ending April 4. 

What to Do When Your Employer Appeals Your Unemployment Compensation Claim

How do I know my Employer is Appealing? 


After you apply for unemployment compensation, it is important you check your mail regularly for letters from the government. If your employer is appealing your claim, you should receive a letter in the mail that says your employer has filed a petition for appeal.

What happens after that?


At some point after you get the letter that says your employer has appealed your claim, you will receive a Notice of Hearing in the mail. The Notice of Hearing contains the date, time, and location of the hearing and the name of the referee. It will also contain some rules and info about hearings.