COVID-19 Employment Resources
Posted by NPLS on April 21, 2020
As guidelines change during the COVID-19 crisis, please check back often for updates and new resources (updated 3/22/21).
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
On March 27, 2020, then President, Donald J. Trump, signed into law the CARES Act, which included the Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act set out in Title II, Subtitle A. Section 2102 of the CARES Act created a temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The PUA program was created to provide unemployment assistance to those persons who were separated from their jobs as a result of COVID-19 and who are not qualified for regular unemployment benefits or extended benefits, including those who have exhausted all rights to these benefits. A person may be eligible for PUA if:
- they are self-employed;
- they have lost income due to the pandemic;
- they do not have sufficient work history to qualify for regular unemployment benefit;
- they have never worked before and had a bona-fide job offer to start working on a specific date and were unable to start due to the pandemic
PUA eligible individuals include certain gig economy workers, clergy, and those working for religious organizations who are not covered by regular UC. (Pennsylvania Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Handbook https://www.uc.pa.gov/Documents/UC_Forms/PUA-5%20%2005-20.pdf)
When applying for PUA, a claimant will need to provide documentation substantiating the employment, self-employment or planned employment/self-employment in compliance with Section 241 of the Continued Assistance Act to confirm their qualification for PUA. The amount of PUA benefit that a claimant will receive is based on the previous reported income and may not be more than the state’s maximum weekly benefit rate for regular UC benefit, which is $572 for PA (2020). In Pennsylvania the minimum PUA payment is $195. All individuals collecting PUA will receive an additional $300 from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).
Under the CARES Act, PUA benefits were slotted to expire at the close of the 2020 calendar year. However, on December 27, 2021, President Trump provided an extension of the PUA benefits through March 14, 2021, by signing into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Thereafter, on March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which included an extension of PUA benefits. ARP has provided an extension of the PUA benefits through September 6, 2021.
An individual seeking to apply for PUA benefits should apply by visiting www.uc.pa.gov, select "File for PUA." When completing the PUA application, remember that you do not financially qualify for regular UC if your UC benefit year is still active and you claimed all your available UC, PEUC, and EB benefits.
While you may be eligible for PUA benefits, eligibility is not automatic. To see if you are eligible visit: https://www.uc.pa.gov/unemployment-benefits/file/Pages/Filing-for-PUA.aspx.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) Program
The PEUC program has been extended by the Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act (CAA) until March 13, 2021. The PEUC provides an additional 24 weeks of UC benefits, beyond the regular 26 weeks already provided, for a total of 50 weeks of coverage. Claimants with benefit weeks remaining after March 13, 2021 will receive PEUC payments through the benefit week ending April 10, 2021.
Claimants are eligible for PEUC if:
- They are unemployed for weeks within the time frame of March 29, 2020 through March 13, 2021.
- They exhausted their regular state or federal benefits after July 6, 2019;
- They are not currently eligible for state or federal unemployment benefits; and
- They are able and available to work. Please note, however, that Governor Wolf has temporarily suspended the work registration and work search requirements pursuant to the COVID-19 Disaster Declaration.
Pennsylvania Extended Benefits (EB)
The EB program provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits. The extended benefits becomes available after the regular UC benefits and PEUC are exhausted. Claimants do not have to apply for the extended benefits. EB-eligible individuals will receive a letter after their PEUC claim is exhausted. EB claimants must file their weekly certification as they would for regular UC and PEUC.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program
The federal Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020 (CAA) reauthorized the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (FPUC), which provides for a temporary emergency increase in unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. The FPUC was extended through passing of the ARP, which continues FPUC benefits into September 2021.
Individuals who are receiving benefits through the regular UC, PEUC, EB, and the PUA are eligible to receive $300/week under the FPUC Program. The additional $300 will be automatically paid to qualified individuals. However, claimants are required to continue to file their biweekly claims. The additional $300/week payment will be paid separately from the bi-weekly benefit payment for the same amount of weeks that claims were filed. The extra $300 FPUC per week will not affect eligibility for Medicaid, CHIP, or SNAP. The FPUC is taxable and will be subject to 10% Federal Withholding Tax, if you elected to have taxes withheld from your regular UC or PUA benefits. Also, child support is deductible from FPUC payments.
Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) Program
The state Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) is now accepting applications for the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program. This program provides an additional $100 per week to certain individuals collecting under programs such as regular UC, PEUC, and EB. The MEUC Program provides $100 of additional UC benefits to certain eligible individuals who are also engaged in self-employment. Eligible individuals will receive MEUC payments concurrently with payments under these programs. Eligible individuals must be receiving an unemployment benefit from a program other than Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
Individuals will receive the extra $100 MEUC payment for all weeks, January 2, 2021 through March 13, 2021, in which they received UC, PEUC, or EB. However, the money will only be paid after the department reviews all supporting documents and makes a determination regarding eligibility for the program. If someone is determined eligible for MEUC, all weeks beginning January 2, 2021 through March 13, 2021 will be paid retroactively. If someone is determined ineligible for the program they have the right to appeal. Keep in mind, the extra $100 MEUC per week may affect eligibility for Medicaid, CHIP, or SNAP. The MEUC is taxable and will be subject to 10% Federal Withholding Tax, if the individual elected to have taxes withheld from their regular UC benefits.
Other requirements include:
- They must have at least $5,000 in net income from self-employment in the applicable tax year.
- They will have to submit documentation which clearly shows $5,000 net income.
- Here’s a link to the PA Office of Unemployment Compensation website: Mixed Earners UC PA
More information can be found at https://www.uc.pa.gov/COVID-19/CARES-Act/Pages/default.aspx.
How do I apply for UC?
The fastest way to apply is online at www.pa.us.gov, but you can also call 1-888-313-7284. Given the current volume of calls, you should apply online.
Should I apply for Unemployment Compensation if I don't know if I will be eligible for benefits?
You should apply for Unemployment Compensation even if you are unsure. However, you need to be financially eligible and you have to be unemployed through no fault of your own.