A record number of Americans have already lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in their income as a result of the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Politico, over 10 million workers have been laid off in a two week period alone, suggesting the 15 million jobs lost during the peak of the 2007-2009 Great Recession will soon be surpassed. In response to the crisis, the government has introduced an extraordinary package of measures designed to help those hit the hardest. Passed into law on the 27 March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will deliver (amongst other things):
- Tax rebates of up to $1,200 per taxpayer, along with an additional $500 for every dependent.
- An expanded Unemployment Insurance benefits package to include an across-the-board, $600 per week supplementary payment until the end of July; a waiving of the 7-day waiting period for new applicants; an extra 13 weeks of paid benefits until the end of July; a reworking of the UI eligibility criteria to accommodate those affected by COVID-19.
- Subsidized loans for small businesses affected by COVID-19.
- Increased financial support to students, schools, and colleges.
As Patch reports, Pennsylvania has become one of the hardest-hit states with nearly 1 million residents claiming Unemployment Benefits Insurance since Mid-March. To those affected, the CARES Act could be a lifeline.
Am I Eligible to Claim Unemployment?
If you’re a Pennsylvania resident who’s been left out of work as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, you may be eligible to claim Unemployment Insurance benefits. Whereas previously you would have needed to demonstrate you were both ready, able and willing to work, and actively seeking employment, the rules have now been relaxed to ensure that those impacted by COVID-19 aren’t penalized.
If your reason for being out of work relates to any of the below, you may be eligible for UI.
- You are sick with COVID-19.
- You are in quarantine or self-isolation after being exposed to COVID-19.
- You are a caregiver to someone with COVID-19 or to someone who is in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
- Your employer has gone out of business or temporarily closed because of COVID-19.
- Your employer has reduced your hours because of COVID-19.
- You cannot work because of school closures and do not have childcare support.
- You are unable to get to work because public transportation has been shut down and you are unable to work from home.
- You quit your job or were fired because you believed it was unsafe to attend. You must show evidence of trying to keep your job, and it is recommended that you provide written notice of your concerns to your line manager before taking any action.
- You are self-employed, a freelancer, or a gig worker whose income has been adversely affected by COVID-19.
- In order to file a successful claim, you must also satisfy the minimum income requirements for UI. The requirements are set at:
- A minimum of $116 per week for at least 18 weeks during your base period
- A minimum of $1,688 during the highest-earning quarter in your base period
- A minimum of $3,391 in total income during your base period
- Your base period is determined as per the below:
- For claims made from April through June 2020, your base period will be set as January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019.
- For claims made from July through September 2020, your base period will be set as April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020.
- For claims made from October through December 2020, your base period will be set as July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.
How Do I Apply for Unemployment in Pennsylvania?
To file a claim for UI, you’ll need to provide the following information and documents:
- Your Social Security Number.
- Your Alien Registration Number (if you’re not a US citizen).
- Your Contact Information (mailing address, phone number, and email address)
- Your employment history for the past 18 months. This should include the name and address of each employer, employer’s telephone number, your occupation with that employer, the first and last working days with that employer, and the reason for leaving the job (this will be to verify you weren’t fired).
- Severance Information, if applicable
- Military Form DD-214 (if you have completed military service within the past 18 months).
- Form SF-8 or SF-50 (if you were a federal employee).
Once you’ve compiled all the necessary documentation, you should proceed to file your claim online through Pennsylvania’s Office of Unemployment Compensation.
You can also do it by phone (888-313-7284); however, due to high call traffic, expect long hold times.
Once you’ve filed your application, you’ll need to verify your claim bi-weekly for the duration of your unemployment. This applies even while you’re waiting on a decision or if you appeal a declined application.
Can I Appeal If My Claim is Denied?
If your claim is denied, you’ll receive a written notice to that effect within 21 days. If you wish to appeal the decision, you have 15 days to log an appeal. Details of the appeals process will be included in the letter.
How Much Will I Get?
Depending on your previous income, you’ll receive between $68 and $561 per week. In addition to the base payment, you’ll be eligible for an additional $5 per week for a dependent spouse and $3 per week for a dependent child. If you want to calculate your estimated benefits, File Unemployment has a useful tool for just that. Simply fill in your income details for the base period, confirm your number of dependents, and the calculator will return your projected benefits.
When Will I Be Paid?
Your first payment will usually fall in the same week that you file your first claim (this will be 2 weeks after you file your initial application). Payment will be made by either direct deposit through your bank or credit union or by UIA Bank of America debit card, depending on which option you choose.