The federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provides benefits for many individuals who have been determined ineligible for state unemployment benefits, including self-employed workers and independent contractors.
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Learn About PUA
Individuals can still generally apply for PUA within 21 days of receiving a decision on a pending adjudication or appeal that denies regular UI benefits. However, PUA benefits are only payable retroactively through the week ending September 4th, 2021.
How to Apply for PUA
Before you can apply for PUA, we are required to make sure you don't qualify for regular unemployment insurance. So, you need to first apply for regular unemployment insurance.
If you already applied for regular unemployment insurance, and weren't eligible, you can then apply for PUA online. You can also apply by calling IDES at (800) 244-5631.
Who can Apply for PUA?
Those individuals who usually can't get unemployment benefits may be able to get unemployment assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, you may be able to get PUA benefits if:
1. You were denied regular unemployment benefits.
Because eligibility for unemployment benefits is based on different laws, you may not qualify for regular benefits and still qualify for PUA.
2. You are self-employed, seeking part time employment, or do not have sufficient work history.
Self-employed workers can be gig workers, independent contractors, and/or business owners.
- Business owners
- Sole proprietors who do not pay unemployment contributions
- Workers who filed a Schedule C (Form 1040) tax form to report profit or loss from business
3. You work for an organization that does not pay unemployment insurance taxes.
Some organizations, like nonprofit religious organizations, don't have to pay unemployment insurance taxes. If you work for one of these organizations, you may be eligible for PUA.
4. You ran out of regular unemployment insurance or are otherwise not eligible for an extension.
Because of extensions to the regular unemployment insurance programs, it's unlikely that you would run out of benefits and then need to apply for PUA. Any regular or Extended Benefits you received will be deducted from the maximum number of weeks you can receive in PUA. However, if you've exhausted all weeks in the other programs, then you may be eligible for PUA benefits.
For example, if you voluntarily quit or were not able or available to work due to a COVID-19 related reason, you would not qualify for regular unemployment benefits. However, these same reasons would qualify you for PUA benefits.
Remember, to be eligible for PUA, you must be unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of a COVID-19 reason allowed by federal law. For example, this could mean:
- You have been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- You have a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- You are providing care to a household or family member diagnosed with COVID-19;
- You have primary caregiving responsibility for a child or other person who is unable to attend school or another facility as a result of COVID-19;
- You are unable to reach the place of employment because you have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
- You were scheduled to start work and do not have a job because of COVID-19; or
- You have become the major support for a household because the head of the household died because of COVID-19.
- You refused to return to work or accept an offer of work at a worksite that is not in compliance with local, state, or national health and safety standards directly related to COVID-19.
- You work for a school which is closed due to COVID-19.
- Your hours have been reduced or you were laid off as a direct result of COVID-19.
Tips for Applying
Remember: Before you apply for PUA, you must be denied for regular unemployment insurance.
Collect your 1040 tax forms for the 2019 or 2020 tax year. If you apply for PUA in 2020, you will need your 2019 tax forms. If you apply for PUA in 2021, you will need your 2020 tax forms.
Your net income from your tax documents is used to determine how much you can receive in benefits each week. The minimum weekly benefit amount is $198.
You can also use other acceptable proof of wages or income to apply for PUA, including:
- Form 1040, Schedule C;
- Form 1040, Schedule C-EZ;
- Form 1040-SR, Schedule C;
- Form 1040-SR, Schedule C-EZ;
- Schedule K-1 (Form 1065); and
- Other forms on a case-by-case basis.
Note: If you do not provide your tax documents, you will still be required to provide proof of employment/self-employment or proof that you received a job offer and were unable to begin work due to a COVID-19 reason.
File a PUA Claim. Be sure to enter your name exactly as it appears on your driver's license or state ID. You will be asked to go through an Experian Identity Verification. If you choose not to go through the Experian Identity Verification, you will be required to provide proof of identity, which may delay when you begin receiving benefits.
Review your claim before submitting it. After you file, we will review your PUA application. Remember, to be eligible for PUA, among other requirements, you must:
- Be unemployed for a reason related to COVID-19
- Provide proof of your total wages to receive more than the minimum of $198 per week
- Be able and available to work (aside from your COVID-19 related reason for being unemployed)
Important note: None of the benefits described above, nor unemployment benefits of any kind, are available to employees who quit without good work-related cause or refuse to accept or return to work. If any of these apply to you, you might not receive PUA benefits.
Tips for Certifying
What is Certification?
After you apply, to receive PUA benefits, you must "certify" each week that you remain eligible for PUA benefits. You will answer a short set of questions about the past week, to ensure you can still receive benefits.
When you certify each week, be sure to read the questions carefully. Follow these tips to certify successfully:
- Are you able to work? You will be asked if, other than a COVID-19 related circumstance, you were physically able to work during the reporting period.
If you would be able to work if it weren't for COVID-19, a layoff, or if your kids were in school, answer "yes." This question is about you, not about the pandemic generally. So, during COVID-19, most people should answer "yes."
- Are you available? You will be asked if, other than a COVID-19 related circumstance, you were physically available to work during the reporting period.
If you would be available to work if it weren't for COVID-19, a layoff, or if your kids were in school, answer "yes." This question is about you, not about the pandemic generally. So, during COVID-19, most people should answer "yes."
- Workers' compensation. You will be asked if, during this reporting period, you received pension, subsidy, disability, or holiday pay. Disability also refers to Workers' Compensation. Unless you are currently receiving workers' compensation, answer "no" to the workers' compensation question. (Even if you were receiving it but no longer are, still answer "no.")
- We will send a decision. 10 business days after applying for PUA, you will receive a PUA Finding Letter with information about your claim, including your weekly benefit amount. The weekly benefit amount will start off at the minimum of $198 until your tax documents are reviewed. Once reviewed, you will receive a Reconsidered Finding letter, which includes your net income reported on your tax documents. Your weekly amount may or may not increase. If you disagree with the weekly amount noted on the Reconsidered Finding letter, you can appeal the decision within 30 days.
- If you are eligible, follow the instructions to certify for weekly benefits. Remember, you will need to certify within your PUA account on a weekly basis to receive PUA benefit. This is different from certification under the regular unemployment insurance program, which happens every other week.
- Respond on time to all requests. If there is a question about your eligibility, IDES will contact you for more information. If you don't respond on time, your benefits may be denied, and you will not receive benefits. If you disagree with a decision denying you benefits, you can appeal the decision which must be filed within 30 days from the date of the decision.
- Receiving your benefits. If you are approved for PUA benefits, you will typically receive payment within one week by direct deposit or via the debit card mailed to you. After you certify each week, you'll typically receive payment within 2-3 days. You'll also receive the $300 FPUC bonus added to your PUA benefits automatically.
- PUA ends on September 4, 2021. Unless Congress makes any changes, PUA will end on September 4, 2021. The automatic $300 FPUC bonus ends on the same day.
The CARES Act specifically provides for serious consequences for fraudulent cases including fines, confinement, and an inability to receive future unemployment benefits until all fraudulent claims and fines have been repaid.
Be sure to protect your personal information against fraudulent activity. For more information, read about how to protect your IDES account.