Today, I’ll be going over the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and why you may qualify even if you still have a job. Don’t leave $600 on the table – see if you’re eligible to apply.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is part of the the $2 trillion dollar stimulus package known as the CARES Act (The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).
I wrote an overview of the stimulus package and how the government was trying to help America weather the coronavirus crisis.
You may remember that 2007-2009 was called the Great Recession, considered the worst economic downturn in history. At the height of that recession, a little over 650,000 people claims unemployment each week.
That’s pretty bad.
However, the chart below depicts the weekly unemployment claims since 2008 and shows why the federal government needed to step in and help Americans. The number is off the charts… literally:
The coronavirus crisis has caused unprecedented negative effects on the economy. You had 6,857,000 people file the week ending March 28 when most of the nation was shut down.
No question, help was needed.
With that out of the way, let’s focus on unemployment benefits. A big portion of the stimulus is the expansion of unemployment benefits through:
- Enhancing the existing state benefits
- Adding new federal benefits which is called the PUA
State Unemployment Benefits
The regular state unemployment benefits were enhanced:
- Extended state unemployment by an additional 13 weeks; most states offered 26 weeks of unemployment benefits – it will now be 39 weeks (weekly benefit amount depends on the state you work in)
- Removes the 1-week waiting period when someone loses their job so they can receive benefits immediately
- Includes unemployment benefits to furloughed workers (so companies don’t have to layoff employees in order for them to receive benefits)
Federal Unemployment Benefits
On top of state benefits, the federal government is chipping in with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that:
- Includes an additional $600 a week of payment
- Provides unemployment benefits for those who normally wouldn’t be eligible (insufficient work history or insufficient wage base) who were impacted by coronavirus
- Provides unemployment benefits for the first time to self-employed workers (1099) and “gig-economy” workers (Uber, AirBnB, DoorDash, etc.) who were impacted by coronavirus
This is significant in two ways.
The first, is that additional $600 is added to whatever you are getting paid by the state. States will give you up to 50% of your lost weekly wages to a certain limit that varies by state.
For example, the maximum benefit amount in Massachusetts is $823 per week (for those that made $1,646/week or more). With the $600 federal benefit, you could get $1,423 per week ($823 + $600). That equivalent to $73,996 a year!
The second is that for the first time ever, you can get unemployment even if you normally wouldn’t qualify because you made too little and/or if you’re self-employed or a contractor (those who receive 1099-MISCs for their work).
That means people who freelance, those who drive Uber/Lyft, and others who deliver food through delivery apps like DoorDash and Postmates are eligible.
Essentially, you could’ve worked part-time in these jobs, made $25 a week, and still be considered for state and federal benefits. Your state benefits would obviously be very minimal because it’s based on the money you’ve earned, but the federal benefit is a fixed $600 weekly. If you’re eligible, no matter how much you make, you’ll still get the entire $600!
- Coronavirus: What It Means For This Site
- Coronavirus $1,200 Relief Checks Being Sent – Check Your Status
- Lowering Your Car Insurance Premium Due To Coronavirus
Am I eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance even if I still have a job?
You can still be considered for PUA even while having a job if your job was impacted by coronavirus.
Impacted in this sense means that coronavirus negatively affected some aspect of your job, like if your wages were reduced or you couldn’t get to your work place because of it.
In order to get unemployment or the $600 a week under PUA, you need to be able to answer “Yes” to at least one of the questions below:
- Last week, were your hours and earnings cut as a result of the COVID-19?
- Last week, were you unable to report to work because you were self-quarantined at the direction of your employer?
- Last week, were you unable to report to work because you were self-quarantined on the advice of a health care provider?
- Last week, were you out of work because you are self-employed and unable to conduct your business because of COVID-19?
- Last week, did you have COVID-19 or did you experience symptoms and seek a medical diagnosis?
- Last week, did a member of your household have COVID-19?
- Last week, were you caring for a family or household member that had COVID-19?
- Last week, were you caring for your child or other person for whom you have primary care-giving responsibility because their school or care facility is closed because of COVID-19?
- Last week, were you out of work because you were supposed to start a new job which is still unavailable due to COVID-19?
- Last week, were you out of work because your employer is closed due to COVID-19?
- Last week, were you out of work because you have been temporarily laid off due to COVID-19?
- Last week, were you unable to get to your place of employment because of government imposed stay at home order or travel restriction due to COVID-19?
- Have you become the major source of income for your household because the individual that was the major source of income has died of COVID-19?
- Last week, did you quit your job due to health complications caused by COVID-19?
I bolded the first 3 bullets because those questions assume you still have a job, but were impacted by the virus.
How To Apply For Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
Applying for PUA depends on the state you live in. Some states require you to apply for regular unemployment first while others want you to fill in the PUA application immediately.
State-by-State Guide To Getting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits
|State||Unemployment Site||PUA Portal||Notes|
|Alabama||https://www.labor.alabama.gov/||N/A||Alabama started taking PUA applications on April 27. Claimants must first file a regular unemployment insurance claim through the above link, and then visit the state’s “claim tracker” page for any next steps the following day. Detailed step-by-step information is available here.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit is $45, and the maximum is $275.
|Alaska||https://my.alaska.gov/||N/A||Applicants must first apply for regular unemployment insurance via the above link prior to filing for PUA. More information is available here.|
Alaska’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $56, and the maximum is $370.
|Arizona||https://des.az.gov/||https://pua.azdes.gov||Arizona’s minimum weekly benefit is $117, and the maximum is $240.|
|Arkasas||https://www.dws.arkansas.gov/unemployment/||https://pua.arkansas.gov/home||Arkansas’ minimum weekly benefit is $133, and the maximum weekly benefit is $451.|
|California||https://edd.ca.gov/unemployment/||N/A||California started accepting PUA applications through the general unemployment portal on Tuesday, April 28.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit is $167, and the maximum is $450.
|Colorado||https://smartfile.coworkforce.com/Start||https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/ui/new-claimant||Colorado’s minimum weekly benefit is $223, and the maximum is $618.|
|Connecticut||http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/UI-OnLine/index.htm||http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/PUA/filePUA.htm||PUA applicants must first file a regular unemployment insurance claim through the link above.|
Connecticut’s minimum weekly benefit is $198, and the maximum is $649.
|Delaware||https://ui.delawareworks.com/||N/A||To be eligible for PUA, applicants need to apply for traditional unemployment insurance (and be denied) through the link above.|
Delaware’s minimum weekly PUA benefit is $133, and the maximum weekly benefit is $400.
|Florida||http://www.floridajobs.org/||https://floridajobs.org/cares-act||Florida’s maximum PUA benefit is $275/week|
|Georgia||https://www.dol.state.ga.us/static/uiben/ui-ruhere.htm#||https://www.dol.state.ga.us/public/uiben/pua/login||Georgia’s minimum PUA benefit is $55/week, and the maximum is $365/week|
|Hawaii||https://labor.hawaii.gov/ui/||https://pua.hawaii.gov/_/||Hawaii’s minimum PUA benefit is $263/week and the maximum is $648/week|
|Idaho||https://www.labor.idaho.gov/dnn/Unemployment-Benefits||N/A||PUA applicants must first apply for regular unemployment insurance through the above link.|
Idaho’s minimum weekly PUA payment is $168. The maximum is $448.
|Illinois||https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/||https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/pages/file-for-pua.aspx||Illinois applicants can file a PUA claim only after they’ve applied for regular unemployment insurance first.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit is $51, and the maximum is $580.
|Indiana||https://uplink.in.gov/CSS/CSSLogon.htm||N/A||Indiana’s PUA application process opened on April 27. According to a state government website, applications will be available online to claimants who apply for and are denied regular unemployment insurance.|
Indiana’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $149.
|Iowa||https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/file-claim-unemployment-insurance-benefits||https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/Pua-application||Iowa’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $203, and it’s maximum is $481.|
|Kansas||https://www.getkansasbenefits.gov/BenefitsStartMenu.aspx||N/A||The Kansas Department of Labor projects that residents will be able to file for PUA by May 12 and that payments should start processing by May 25.|
The minimum weekly payment in Kansas is $122, and the maximum is $488.
|Kentucky||https://uiclaims.des.ky.gov/ebenefit/eben.htm||N/A||Residents who apply through the above link will be automatically considered for PUA.|
Kentucky’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $180.
|Louisiana||www.louisianaworks.net/HiRE||N/A||Eligible PUA applicants should apply through the above link.|
Louisiana’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $107, and the maximum is $247.
|Maine||https://reemployme.maine.gov/||N/A||Applications for PUA opened on Friday, May 1. Residents should apply through the “Reemploy Me” Link above. As per a state government website, if you have already applied for benefits and been denied due to insufficient earnings, your claim will automatically transfer to PUA.|
Maine’s minimum benefit available under PUA is $172/week. The maximum benefit is $445/week.
|Maryland||https://beacon.labor.maryland.gov/claimant/||N/A||Maryland’s PUA applications opened on April 24. If you’ve already applied for regular unemployment insurance and were denied, you need to complete a new initial claim application to determine eligibility for PUA (available at the link above).|
|Massachusetts||https://uionline.detma.org/Claimant/Core/Login.ASPX||https://ui-cares-act.mass.gov/PUA/_/||The state’s maximum weekly benefit is $823.|
|Michigan||https://www.michigan.gov/leo/0,5863,7-336-78421_97241—,00.html||N/A||Claimants should apply for PUA through the general link above.|
In Michigan, the weekly benefit amount ranges from $160 to $318.
|Minnesota||https://www1.uimn.org/ui_applicant/applicant/login.do||N/A||Minnesota’s minimum weekly PUA benefit is $234.|
|Mississippi||https://accessms.mdes.ms.gov/accessms/faces/login/login.xhtml||N/A||The minimum benefit amount is $106, and the maximum is $235.|
|Missouri||https://uinteract.labor.mo.gov/benefits/home.do||N/A||Missouri PUA applicants must first file a regular unemployment claim (available at the link above) and be found ineligible before applying for PUA.|
The state’s minimum weekly PUA payment is $133.
|Montana||https://montanaworks.gov/||https://mtpua.mt.gov/_/#1||The minimum Montana PUA benefit is $184.|
|Nebraska||https://dol.nebraska.gov/||Claimant guide available here||Nebraska’s minimum weekly PUA benefit amount is $174, and the maximum is $440.|
|Nevada||http://ui.nv.gov/css.html||https://www.employnv.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx||The minimum weekly benefit is $183, and the maximum weekly benefit is $469.|
|New Hampshire||https://www.unemploymentbenefits.nh.gov/||N/A||PUA applications are open in New Hampshire, but applicants can file a claim only after they’ve applied for regular unemployment insurance benefits and have been denied (available through the week above).|
The minimum weekly benefit is $167.
|New Jersey||https://secure.dol.state.nj.us/sso/XUI/?realm=ui#register/||N/A||New Jersey PUA applicants must first create a profile on the “My Unemployment” website.|
The state’s weekly benefit minimum is $231, and the maximum is $713.
|New Mexico||https://sam.dws.state.nm.us/Core/Login.ASPX||N/A||PUA applicants must first apply for regular unemployment insurance via the above link, and be deemed ineligible. After that step is completed, the link “Apply for PUA benefits” will appear in the left navigation of their unemployment insurance claim homepage.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $133, and the maximum is $320.
|New York||https://unemployment.labor.ny.gov/login||N/A||New Yorkers can submit a PUA application via the above link without first applying for general unemployment insurance.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit rate is $172, and the maximum is $504.
|North Carolina||https://des.nc.gov/||N/A||Applications for PUA opened on April 24. Claimants can apply though the general link above.|
The minimum weekly benefit is $15, and the maximum is $350.
|North Dekota||https://www.jobsnd.com/||https://www.jobsnd.com/pandemic-unemployment-assistance-pua||North Dakota’s minimum weekly benefit is $43, and the maximum is $595.|
|Ohio||https://unemploymenthelp.ohio.gov/||https://cares.unemployment.ohio.gov/||Ohio has created a call center for PUA-specific questions at: 833-604-0774.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $134, and the maximum is $480.
|Oklahoma||https://unemployment.state.ok.us/||https://ui.ok.gov/||Oklahoma recently launched its new digital PUA portal (link above). PUA applicants with an account in the old system will have to register for a new account.|
Oklahoma’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $16, and the maximum amount is $539.
|Oregon||https://secure.emp.state.or.us/ocs4/index.cfm?u=F20200511A084550B34994833.4795&lang=E||https://govstatus.egov.com/ui-benefits/CARES||Oregon PUA applicants should first apply through the state’s general unemployment system. Detailed instructions are available here.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit is $205, and the maximum is $648.
|Pennsylvania||https://www.uc.pa.gov||https://www.uc.pa.gov/unemployment-benefits/file/Pages/Filing-for-PUA.aspx||Pennsylvania’s minimum weekly PUA benefit is $195, and the maximum is $572.|
|Rhode Iland||http://www.dlt.ri.gov/ui/fileclaim2.htm||https://covidemergencyuibenefits.dlt.ri.gov/||Rhode Island’s minimum weekly PUA benefit amount is $53, and the maximum is $586.|
|South Carolina||https://dew.sc.gov/||N/A||Applications opened on April 24.|
Claimants must first apply for general unemployment insurance via the link above. They will then receive an email with information about how to file a separate PUA claim (those who already filed a claim should have already gotten this email).
South Carolina’s average weekly unemployment benefit amount is $236.
|South Dakota||https://apps.sd.gov/LD00General/||N/A||PUA applicants must first file an initial unemployment insurance claim via the link above, and then upload a separate “proof of earnings” submission.|
The state’s minimum PUA benefit is $172/week.
|Tennessee||https://www.jobs4tn.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx||N/A||PUA applicants must first apply for traditional unemployment insurance benefits (via the link above) and be deemed ineligible. Detailed instructions are available here.|
Tennessee’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $120 and the maximum is $275.
|Texas||https://login.apps.twc.state.tx.us/UBS/||N/A||Texas PUA applicants should first apply for regular unemployment insurance through the link above. When asked the reason for their job separation, they should select “reduced hours,” and under the disaster impact section, they should select “COVID-19,” according to a state government website. Once finished, the system will deny them regular unemployment benefits, and automatically enroll them in PUA. Those who have already completed regular unemployment claims should not reapply.|
Texas’ minimum weekly PUA benefit is $207, and the maximum is $521.
|Utah||https://jobs.utah.gov/ui/home/initialclaims||https://jobs.utah.gov/sso/login.aspx?application||Utah’s maximum weekly benefit is $580.|
|Vermont||https://vermont.force.com/DOLClaim/s/||N/A||Vermont PUA applicants must first complete an initial application for general unemployment insurance via the above link. Those eligible for PUA will receive an email with instructions for completing an application.|
Vermont’s minimum PUA benefit is $191/week, and the maximum is $513/week.
|Virginia||https://www.vec.virginia.gov/||https://www.vec.virginia.gov/html/pua.html||Virginia PUA applicants must first apply for general unemployment insurance (via the above link) and be found ineligible.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit is $60, and the maximum weekly benefit is $378.
|Washington||https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/||N/A||Washington PUA applicants must first apply for regular benefits. Once they are found ineligible, these applicants will receive an alert in the eServices account they made through that general portal.|
The state’s minimum weekly PUA benefit is $235, and the maximum is $790.
|West Virginia||https://uc.workforcewv.org/consumer/?lang=en||https://pua.workforcewv.org/vosnet/Default.aspx||In West Virginia, the minimum PUA benefit is $158, and the maximum is $424.|
|Wisconsin||https://my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov/Claimant/Account/Logon||N/A||As of April 21, Wisconsin PUA claimants can apply online through the general portal above.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $163, and the maximum is $370.
|Wyoming||https://wyui.wyo.gov/||N/A||Wyoming PUA applicants can apply through the general portal above.|
The state’s minimum weekly benefit amount is $36, and the maximum is $508.
|Washington, D.C.||https://www.dcnetworks.org/vosnet/Default.aspx||https://dcdoes.force.com/PUAForm/s/||Washington PUA applicants must first make an initial claim for regular unemployment insurance. Once they are found ineligible, they can apply for PUA through the portal above.|
|Puerto Rico||https://www.trabajo.pr.gov/||https://pua.trabajo.pr.gov/pua/application||Puerto Rico’s minimum weekly benefit is $33, and the maximum is $190.|
When does the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance end?
Currently, the $600 federal unemployment boost is set to end on July 31, 2020.
There are discussions on extending this, but Congress is at odds on continuing the most generous unemployment benefits in U.S. history.
Both sides have their points. There are a lot of people who still need, but how far in debt are we willing to go? Our national debt just passed $25 trillion. I found this chart by Wolf Street that shows how quickly we’ve borrowed money (with a funny blurb in green):
The Bottom Line
There seems to be some misconception that you need to have lost your job in order to get unemployment assistance.
Now that we know that’s not true, check to see if you’re eligible with the new set of rules that opened up unemployment benefits to millions of people who otherwise might not qualify.