Unemployment claims have been trending down over the last few weeks, however, the rolling six-week total has reached 30.3 million — the highest unemployment rate since 1948 (the year records for unemployment began). If you’ve been deemed ineligible for unemployment benefits, states are permitted to provide Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to self-employed workers, independent contractors, or those who would otherwise not qualify for regular unemployment compensation.
If you applied for unemployment insurance and were ineligible, that may have triggered a PUA application. If it didn’t, there’s a chance your state may not have had the application process in place yet. For more information on PUA, visit your state’s unemployment insurance office website or this helpful resource with direct links to PUA information by state. In the meantime, here are answers to some frequently asked questions.
Do I qualify for PUA?
Eligibility requirements for PUA are different than those of regular unemployment insurance. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, to receive PUA benefits you must self-certify that you are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of certain health or economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How much can I receive in PUA?
PUA benefits are calculated the same way as federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance funds under the Stafford Act. PUA has a minimum benefit that is equal to one-half of the state’s average weekly unemployment insurance benefit (about $190 per week, or $760 per month). These benefits are calculated week to week, so weekly benefit amounts could vary.
As a contractor, what does the term unemployed mean for me? Many contractors have busy seasons and times with little to no work (or they take some months off).
The Department of Labor clarified in the Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 16-20 that you will still be eligible for PUA even if you are not totally unemployed. If you experience “a significant diminution of work as a direct result of COVID-19,” contractors could collect PUA benefits. Be sure to review the valid COVID-19-related reasons and be able to tie any reduction in your work to at least one of the following:
- You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of it and are seeking diagnosis;
- A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- You are providing care for someone diagnosed with COVID-19;
- You are providing care for a child or other household member who can’t attend school or work because it is closed due to COVID-19;
- You are quarantined or have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
- You were scheduled to start employment and do not have a job or cannot reach their place of employment as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak;
- You have become the breadwinner for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
- You had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19;
- You place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
- You meet other criteria established by the Secretary of Labor.
How long can I receive benefits through PUA?
You can receive PUA for your weeks of unemployment, partial employment or inability to work due to COVID-19 reasons beginning January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Workers will be eligible for retroactive benefits and can access benefits for up to 39 weeks, including any weeks for which the person received regular UI. Benefits end after December 31, 2020, barring any extensions.
What do I need to apply for PUA?
Required documentation will vary by state. This information may be helpful to have on hand when you begin to file:
- Your Social Security Number
- Your State Driver’s License or identification card
- 2019 Form 1099 (or 2018 if your 2019 return has yet to be filed)
- Schedule C from your 2019 Tax Return (or 2018 if your 2019 return has yet to be filed)
- Schedule D: Gains and losses
If I already filed for unemployment and was denied, do I need to file separately to receive PUA?
The process varies by state. A majority of states have a different application process for PUA and unemployment insurance. Some may require you to file for unemployment first, and then PUA. The National Association of Realtors put together a resource of PUA and unemployment resources by state. Some states have been slow to implement PUA, so we suggest checking with your state’s unemployment office regularly for updates.
Has my state begun to implement PUA?
Some states allow you to file claims now, while others are working on their application systems and are not yet accepting claims. Ohio does not yet have a system in place but is allowing residents to pre-register for PUA.
Am I still eligible for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)?
Those who are eligible for PUA can also receive $600 per week through July 31, 2020, under the FPUC program.
For more information on unemployment insurance or PUA, visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.