Your Guide to Collect Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits


collect PUA benefits

So you lost your job. You could be eligible for PUA or pandemic unemployment benefits. If you are unemployed through no fault of your own, you could tap into unemployment insurance, which will pay you while you look for another job.

COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits 

Due to the coronavirus, many businesses have shut down and let workers go. Since March 2020 millions of people have been unemployed. Jobless claims have bogged down state agencies.

For instance, in Texas officials told an Austin TV station that the workforce commission had processed three years worth of claims in two months.

The federal and state governments have approved legislation to provide additional unemployment benefits to impacted workers, including employees, gig workers, and the self-employed.

CARES Act and Unemployment Benefits

The CARES Act, signed into law March 27, gives states the option of extending unemployment compensation to independent contractors and other workers who are ordinarily ineligible for unemployment benefits.

How to Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

To receive unemployment insurance benefits, you need to file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you worked. Depending on the state, claims may be filed in person, by telephone, or online.

  • You should contact your state’s unemployment insurance program as soon as possible after becoming unemployed.
  • Generally, you should file your claim with the state where you worked. If you worked in a state other than the one where you now live or if you worked in multiple states, the state unemployment insurance agency where you now live can provide information about how to file your claim with other states.
  • When you file a claim, you will be asked for certain information, such as addresses and dates of your former employment. To make sure your claim is not delayed, be sure to give complete and correct information.
  • Find the contact information for your state’s unemployment office to start your claim.

Who Can Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, PUA may be available to people who do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation and are unable to continue working as a result of COVID-19. This includes:

  • self-employed workers
  • independent contractors
  • gig workers

What PUA Benefit Will I Receive?

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to qualifying individuals who are otherwise able to work and available for work within the meaning of applicable state law. All individuals collecting PUA will receive $600 per week from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), in addition to state unemployment weekly benefits as calculated by their state of residency. 

Except that they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to COVID-19.

PUA benefit payments are retroactive, for weeks of unemployment, partial employment, or inability to work due to COVID-19 starting on or after January 27, 2020.

pandemic unemployment benefits are open to gig workers

You Cannot Get Pandemic Unemployment Benefits If

  • You quit your job without good cause
  • You were fired for misconduct
  • You resigned
  • You are involved in a labor dispute
  • You were attending school

What You Need to File for Unemployment

  • Social Security Number
  • Alien Registration Card if you’re not a U.S. citizen
  • Driver’s license or State ID card number
  • Mailing address including zip code
  • Phone number
  • Names, addresses, and dates of employment for all employers for the last two years

Use an App to File

You can apply for unemployment benefits online and over the phone. The DoNotPay app can expedite the unemployment claim filing.

You fill out your state’s application online and the app mails a paper application to the agency. Most state employment agencies expedite paper applications. It could take a few weeks to get your benefits.

Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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