Filing Weekly Certifications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
Here we answer common questions about filing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance weekly certifications.
How Do I file my weekly certification?
Do I have to file my PUA weekly certification on a certain day of the week?
PUA claimants can file any day from Sunday through Friday, for the previous week.
When I tried to file my PUA weekly certification the system told me to file a UC claim, what do I do?
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. You are supposed to collect regular state UC if you are eligible for it instead of PUA (and not both at the same time). Financial eligibility for state UC is redetermined on a quarterly basis, so periodically those with w-2 work history receiving PUA will be asked to reapply for UC before continuing on PUA.
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 new initial 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.
The PUA portal won’t let me file all my weekly claims, what is going on?
It is not you, it is the system. When the system went live in April of 2020, there was a glitch that prevented claimants from filing for all the available weeks. For example, some claimants were only able to file their very first week and most recent weeks. Others received a message saying they had to file a new application before they can file for more weeks. In June, the Department emailed all PUA claimants about a fix for this issue and assigned specific days when claimants could file their backweeks. If you were unable to file for those backweeks, or are experiencing a new issue with missing weeks, you will need to email UCPUA@pa.gov and request the weeks be released to you so that you can file for those weeks (although this may take some time). You must include your name, last four digits of your social security number, your address, phone number, and the covid-19 related reason why you were unemployed for the precise weeks.
If you need your claim effective date changed, meaning you want to start your claim earlier (you entered the wrong last date of work, or it did not file your application right after losing work), you will need to email UCPUA@pa.gov and request that they "backdate" your PUA claim. You should provide exact dates you want to have your claim backdated to and details on why your claim needs to be backdated (such as “I didn’t apply for PUA in March as I wasn’t aware of the PUA program until September”). You will also need to provide the reason you were unemployed due to the pandemic for each of the backdated weeks requested. Finally, include “Back Date Request” in the subject line of your email.
My application was backdated to a time while I was still working and I had to file certifications for those weeks, what do I do?
Similar to UC applications, PUA applications are automatically backdated to the Sunday prior to the application date (for PUA claimants, the application date is based on the last date of work you provided in the initial application). So for some claimants, you may have done some work during that first week. You need to report your wages in the weekly certification. For some, the system is then telling them that they cannot file any further weekly certifications due to “excessive earnings” and they need to file a new PUA application. This is incorrect and a glitch in the system. You do not need to file a new application (but if you did, that is okay).
Others were sent back to file for weeks in February of 2020 and had a similar issue. The Department is aware of this glitch and should be fixed at this time.
How do I report weekly income or earnings for PUA?
All PUA claimants must report all income when earned, not when paid.
What that means is, if you receive pay now for work you did in February, you do not need to report it. But if you work during the week, you need to report what you “earned” for that work.
We recognize this is often difficult for self-employed workers to determine when money is “earned” in their field of work. Unfortunately, the federal Department of Labor has provided no guidance on how income reporting should work. Self-employed PUA claimants should pick a certain way of establishing when income is “earned” and then be consistent in how they report income. We recommend recording the reasoning in writing and keeping it in case DLI requests proof.
Should I report net or gross earnings?
Claimants earning W2 wages should report their earnings as gross income (before tax).
Self-employed claimants, however, should report net income (after business expenses are deducted). Again, the PUA Handbook originally issued by the Department was incorrect and told self-employed claimants to report gross income.
I am self-employed but the weekly certification does not make any sense for reporting my type of work, what should I do?
Unfortunately, the vendor that created the PUA system did a horrible job designing it for self-employed claimants. The system asks for claimants to report their earnings as if they are all W2 workers -- clearly not the case with PUA. If self-employed claimants can figure out a way to accurately report their net earnings in the system, you should go ahead and do that now. But if you do not feel you can report your income given the current questions, you can wait to file until the system is updated.
Under PA regulations, the Department must allow claimants to backdate weeks if claimants were unable to file them due to Department error. Therefore, you will not lose benefits for those weeks if you do not file those weeks now.
The weekly certification asked me about potential earnings, what are those?
Potential earnings are earnings you turned down that week. For example, someone offered you a shift or a gig and you did not take it. It is not the earnings you would have made if you were working like normal. The vast majority of workers will have $0 in potential earnings during Covid19.
Many claimants mistakenly reported potential earnings when the weekly certifications were first available, as no directions were provided. If that was you, you are most likely seeing an “excessive earnings” issue on your portal for that week. That issue should only affect the week they reported the potential earnings. The Department must give you the opportunity to fix the income reporting for the week so you do not lose benefits.
Can I still get benefits if I work some during the week?
It depends on your weekly benefit amount (see example Monetary Determination). If you earn less than 30% of your weekly benefit amount (WBA), then you will receive your full benefit amount. If you earn more than 30% of your weekly benefit amount, there will be a dollar for dollar reduction in the benefit amount (you will receive partial benefits). If you earn more than 130% of your weekly benefit amount, you will not be eligible for any benefits (and will see the “excessive earnings” issue on the portal).
As long as you are eligible for $1 in partial benefits, you will still receive the extra Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) payments if program applies to the weeks being certified (PUC was $600 between for weeks between 4/4/2020 and 7/26/2020 and reactivated to be $300 for weeks between 12/26/2020 and 3/14/2021).
It is very important that claimants honestly report income. If the government discovers later that a claimant failed to report income, or intentionally underreported income, you will be assessed an overpayment.
See the graphic below for an example of the partial benefit analysis:
If you have more general questions about PUA, check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.