Pandemic Unemployment Assistance FAQs
What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
PUA provides coverage for a large group of workers who are not normally covered by regular Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation.
PUA also provides additional benefits for workers who ran out of their regular UC benefits after the 13 week extension, state extended benefits. This mostly applies to workers who lost their employment pre-Covid19.
Am I eligible for PUA?
You are likely eligible for PUA if you lost work due to the Covid-19 pandemic and any of the following describes your situation::
- You applied for and were denied regular unemployment compensation benefits
- You do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation
- You are an independent contractor, self-employed individual, or gig worker
- You worked for a religiously affiliated organization that does not pay unemployment compensation taxes
- You do not have enough work history to get regular unemployment compensation
Main takeaway: if you cannot get regular UC and you lost work because of the pandemic, then you should be eligible for PUA.
Where can I apply?
Apply on the new PUA website and click on the "File a PUA claim" button.
What if I have W-2 wages from the last 15 months?
You must file a UC claim before you can apply for PUA. It is best not to apply for PUA until there is a new determination letter saying you are not approved for regular unemployment compensation.
Can I get both UC and PUA at the same time?
No, you can only get benefits from one program at a time. Do not apply for PUA if you can get regular unemployment compensation.
I have a full time W2 job but I am no longer making money through my side business, am I eligible for PUA?
No. Both regular unemployment compensation and PUA are for unemployed or partially unemployed individuals who lost their main source of income- not for those who lost income in their side business.
Do I need a PIN number for PUA?
No, use the username and password you created when you applied.
Questions about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Denials and other Common Issues
I was denied PUA benefits. How do I appeal the determination?
Watch our two part video series on how to appeal a PUA determination through the portal. You can find the first video on YouTube by following this link: https://youtu.be/yMoBccrkYwk. Watch our second video on next steps by following the link here: https://youtu.be/rKPHJLLEGr8.
Appeal By Email
Send an email to UCAPPEALS@PA.GOV with the following information:
- Subject: Appealing PUA Determination
- Your full name and mailing address
- Your phone number
- The name, address and phone number of your employer (if applicable)
- The last four digits of your social security number (xxx-xx-1234)
- The mailing date of the determination that you are appealing
- A brief statement explaining that you are appealing a PUA determination and why you disagree with the determination
You only need to send one email. After you send the email to the address above, you will receive a confirmation email (check your spam folder as well). If you do not receive this confirmation within an hour you should make sure that the email address was entered properly and try again.
What happens after I appeal?
When you appeal a Notice of Determination, or if your employer appeals a Notice of Determination, you will be scheduled for a Referee Hearing. The Referee hearing works like a mini-trial. Both you and your employer will have an opportunity to testify and present evidence. You should bring all relevant documentation (ex: termination letters, doctors notes, communications with supervisors) with you to the hearing.
We strongly advise that you seek legal representation for your hearing. You have a much higher chance of winning when you attend the hearing with a representative. You have a right to a representative in Unemployment Compensation Hearings. If you have a hearing scheduled and would like representation or advice for the hearing, you can request a continuance of the hearing so that you can find legal representation. You can email or fax a request for a continuance to the Referee office (fax number and email address should be on the Notice of Hearing you received). You can call the phone number on your Notice of Hearing with questions. The Referee office strongly prefers that you ask for a continuance more than 48 hours in advance – however, if you want a representative it is okay to ask for a continuance at any time, even during the hearing.
Referee Hearings during COVID-19
Referee hearings are being held by telephone during COVID-19, but your hearing of notice will confirm whether your hearing will be held in person or over the phone.
The Department’s web page about referee hearings during COVID-19 goes into more detail about the process.
Why am I waiting on PUA benefits?
Your PUA benefits might be delayed if you are eligible for regular unemployment compensation or a regular unemployment compensation extension program.
Will I lose those benefits?
You can request PUA benefits back to the date you lost your job. If you applied before December 27, 2020, PUA is retroactive to January 27, 2020 and you are eligible as of the day you lost your work, had your income reduced, or closed your business due to Covid19. So if you lost your job on March 16, you can request benefits back to that week.
If you filed after December 27, 2020, PUA is retroactive to December 1, 2020 and you are eligible as of the day you lost your work, had your income reduced, or closed your business due to Covid19.
It does not matter when you file your PUA application, you can still get benefits to cover all the weeks you have been out of work.
I was told to apply for regular unemployment compensation
If you are eligible for regular unemployment compensation (UC), you have to apply for regular unemployment compensation.
Apply for regular unemployment compensation (UC) here.
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 application. The PUA system will not let you through again until there is a new determination finding you ineligible for regular UC.
What do I do after I apply for a regular UC claim?
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.
I've been waiting a long time for benefits, will I get back benefits for all the time that has passed?
Request PUA back to the date you lost your job. PUA goes back to January 27, 2020 and you can get benefits as of the day you lost your work, had your income reduced, or closed your business due to Covid-19. So if you lost your job on March 16, request benefits back to that week.
If you applied for PUA benefits before December 27, 2020, you can backdate your claim to the date you lost your job. If you backdate your request anywhere between April 2020 and July 2020, you will be eligible for $600 extra in weekly benefits for those weeks.
If you applied for PUA benefits after December 27, 2020, you can backdate your claim to December 1, 2020.
I lost work before the week you opened your PUA claim?
Ask for your claim to be “backdated” so that your benefits line up with your weeks of unemployment.
How do I ask for “backdating”?
- Email email@example.com
- 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 want to claim.
- Only send one email request
- Include enough personal information to connect you with your PUA claim (last four of social, name, and DOB).
Common Tech Issues with Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The PUA system will not let me sign back in after I filed my application, do I need to file a new application?
No. Do not file a new application. There are many technology glitches with this system that need to be worked out.
If you filed a PUA application and can’t get back into the system, wait. Also, do not worry if you did not receive a confirmation email. PUA does not send confirmation emails after you file an application.
My PUA account is telling me there’s an issue with my claim. What should I do?
Did your PUA benefits suddenly stop and your weekly certifications now show "In Progress"?
Check your portal to see if the issue is listed as “IP – Investigation Case Special Project.” If it is, you have an identity issue on your claim. Take the following steps to fix the hold on your account.
- Look every day for a message in your PUA portal. Notification about the message should also show up on your dashboard.
- If you signed up for email notifications, you might also receive an email instructing you on how to use ID.Me to verify your identity.
- After you receive this message from the government, do the following to fix the hold on your account:
- Click on the link to the ID.Me website in the message. You should see a PUA logo in the corner of the webpage.
- Verify your identity one of three ways:
- Upload one of the following documents to your account.
- State-issued ID
- Driver’s License
- Passport card
- Answer a few identity verification questions on your credit history
- Video chat with an ID.Me employee if you get stuck
- Upload one of the following documents to your account.
After you complete this process, you should receive your money within the next few days.
What if I have other holds on my PUA account?
You need to correct those before you can receive your money.
What does the documentation requirement message in my portal mean?
All claimants received a message in their inbox on Friday, April 23, 2021, announcing the new documentation requirement for PUA. This is based on changes made to the CARES Act in December 2020.
The message was unclear.
In order to be eligible for weeks in the year 2021, PUA claimants must provide documentation of employment or self-employment prior to the pandemic.
- If you first applied for PUA in 2020, then your document must show some proof of work between January 2019 and when you applied for PUA.
- If you first applied for PUA in 2021, then your document must show some proof of work between January 2020 and when you applied for PUA.
Many PUA claimants already have documents uploaded (like 1099s, tax returns, paystubs, or offer letters) to their portal. You do not need to upload documents again.
This requirement does not affect PUA benefits for weeks in 2020. It is only for benefits claimed in 2021.