Philly’s coronavirus response

Pa. unemployment update: How gig workers can file for benefits and get the extra $300

Known as PUA, the 11-week compensation program can be backdated to the beginning of January.

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Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
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Gig workers, freelancers, and self-employed people in Pennsylvania can now file for benefits again.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance has returned, and the automatic weekly $300 boost along with it. Commonly known as PUA, the CARES Act program had expired at the end of December.

Eligible recipients in Pa. can file for 11 weeks worth of unemployment compensation, which can be applied for retroactively back to the beginning of January.

Applications are open from Jan. 22 to 29. People who filed for PUA last year can expect to start receiving payments by as early as Tuesday, Jan. 26, according to Pa. Department of Labor and Industry spokesperson Sarah DeSantis. It’ll take a little longer for new filers.

The extra $300 payment, automatically added to your account once you’re approved, should arrive about a week later. (The pandemic boost used to be $600, but it’s been halved this time around.)

“We know … Pennsylvanians and their families are relying on these PUA benefits to get through this terrible pandemic and have worked as quickly as possible to complete the implementation and resume payments,” acting L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier said in a release.

More than 358k Pennsylvanians are currently collecting unemployment, according to the state’s unemployment dashboard. That’s more than one out of every 35 Pa. residents, and includes about 47k people in Philadelphia. Since March, the commonwealth has distributed more than $33 billion in unemployment compensation. About $14 billion of that was the extra weekly boost.

When you’re approved for PUA, you’ll automatically get the extra boost, known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC.

If you’re wondering if you’re eligible, how to apply and when you’ll get the money, here’s what you should know.

Who’s eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

Anyone not eligible for traditional unemployment can collect PUA benefits.

That applies to:

  • Gig workers
  • Freelancers
  • Self-employed workers

Who’s eligible for the extra $300?

Anyone who qualifies for unemployment benefits, either traditional or PUA payments, automatically qualifies and receives the extra $300 FPUC payments.

The weekly benefit is different from the $300/week Lost Wages Assistance program implemented late last summer, where filers had to take extra steps to receive the funds.

What if I’m filing for PUA for the first time?

If you didn’t file for PUA last year, you should still complete the application, but you won’t start receiving benefits just yet. The state said it will notify residents when first-time 2021 PUA filers can begin collecting benefits.

“We are still adding 2020 as a base wage year in the system,” said spokesperson DeSantis.

How do I apply for PUA?

If you were already filing biweekly for PUA before the program ended, you can begin filing using that same dashboard anytime between Friday, Jan. 22 to Jan. 29. Missing the Jan. 29 deadline means you’ll have to email ucpua@pa.gov to request backdating.

PUA-eligible people who didn’t file for the week ending Dec. 26 have to reopen a claim to receive benefits. Select “File for Weekly Benefits” in your dashboard, and “File Your Weekly Certification to Continue Your Claim.” Follow the prompt to reactivate your claim from there.

One note from L&I: If you tried to file for PUA after it expired and got an error message, department staff have to resolve your account. “Please be patient,” the department said in a release.

When will PUA benefits be distributed?

Tuesday, Jan, 26, is the earliest possible date Pennsylvanians who apply and qualify for the benefits will receive them, according to the state.

Payments will be in one lump sum, and will be retroactive, covering eligible weeks including:

  • Jan. 2
  • Jan. 9
  • Jan. 16
  • Jan. 23

How do I receive the extra $300?

Once you’re approved, you don’t have to do anything to receive the weekly $300 payment. You will automatically receive it about a week after you receive your first PUA payment, L&I spokesperson Sarah DeSantis said.

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s coronavirus response stories.

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Employment