This article was last updated on February 4
Like most states Pennsylvania has struggled to roll out the many enhanced enhanced unemployment programs – PUA, $300 FPUC, PEUC, LWA – and continues to make retroactive payments for eligible claims. This is a known issue as their systems are having several technical glitches and struggling to handle the volume of claims, implementation of new programs and dealing with a spike in fraudulent claims. However the good news, per the comments below, is that more and more people are seeing their enhanced Unemployment benefits. Also thanks to those leaving comments and helpful tips for those looking for help with their UI payments.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) manages the states’ unemployment insurance program. See further details below on the newly enhanced benefits available now, how to file a claim and whom to contact. And per the official state unemployment website, they are aware of the ongoing issues people are experiencing when filing claims under the new extended coverage period in 2021. Further updates below.
2021 Unemployment Program Extensions Under COVID Relief Bill
The $900 billion COVID-19 relief package was passed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, which among several other pandemic relief measures extends and provides additional federal funding for enhanced unemployment benefits. This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and a reinstatement, but halving of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program which provides a $300 supplemental weekly unemployment payment.
These programs have been funded and extended for 11 weeks (on top of any state funded extensions), covering the weeks of December 27th, 2020 to March 14th, 2021. The $300 FPUC will only be available from the week ending 1/2/21 (subject to states updating systems) and eligible claimants can receive up to 11 weeks of payments for a maximum total of $3,300). To receive FPUC benefits, you must be receiving and certifying for regular UI, PEUC, EB, or PUA UI benefits.
PA Dept of Labor and Industry – 2021 Unemployment Extension Payment Updates and Latest News – PUA and PEUC claimants
PEUC Claimants – Program Now Available from January 24th
- You can file for the additional 11 claim weeks during your biweekly cycle beginning Sunday, January 24.
- If you had some of your original 13 weeks left over on December 26, you will also receive the additional 11 weeks on Sunday.
- If you were being paid on the Pennsylvania’s Extended Benefits (EB) program before December 26, 2020, you MUST complete your EB benefits before the additional 11 weeks of PEUC can be added to your claim.
- You will automatically receive the extra $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – you do not need to take any action to get this boost.
- PEUC provides additional claim weeks to workers who have exhausted their regular Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits. Claimants are automatically enrolled in PEUC after they have reached their maximum claim weeks for UC.
- If you need to request backdating for the weeks between January 2 through January 23, please email UChelp@pa.gov.
- Existing PUA claimants can now file (via their PUA dashboard) for the additional 11 weeks of PUA payments. If approved, will be added to their accounts. Claimants are asked to this by Jan 29th, 2021
- Eligible PUA claimants will be able to file for the weeks of January: 2nd; 9th; 16th; and 23rd
- PUA claimants that no longer had claim weeks or did not file for the week ending Dec. 26 for any reason MUST REOPEN their claim before they can proceed. To do this, log onto your dashboard and click on the link to reopen a claim.
- If you tried to open a new claim while the PUA program was inactive, you will have error codes that the UC staff must fix before you can proceed. Please be patient while we work quickly to resolve your issue.
- If you are a new, first-time PUA claimant opening a claim in 2021, you cannot yet file. The PA Dept of L&I is still adding 2020 as a base wage year in the system and will notify you when you are able to file for benefits.
- You will automatically receive the extra $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – you do not need to take any action to get this boost.
The PA L&I is aware of ongoing issues for certain groups of claimants per their latest Twitter update below. The main issue is for new claims being filed this year. You cannot do much at this time other than wait for updates from PA L&I
PUA claimants that experience additional issues with their claims can email email@example.com and provide a short description of the problem, their name as it appears on their claim, and the last four digits of their Social Security number. This is another way to get a response if you cannot get through to anyone.
January 21st, 2021 update: Active recipients under regular UI and getting State EB are being paid benefits, including the $300 weekly unemployment payment. However those who have exhausted their PUA and PEUC claims will see delays in continuing their benefits under the extended 11 week coverage period and subsequently will not get the supplementary $300 UI payment until those claims can be filed. The PA Dep of L&I has provided the following updates on delays with extending PUA and PEUC claims.
Funds are automatically added to UC claimant payments – Claimants DO NOT need to apply. PA’ians on UC may see FPUC payments as early as Tues., Jan. 12. PUA and PEUC programs are being updated to allow the extended payments to be applied for existing and newly eligible claimants.PA Office of Unemployment Compensation
Opened a new PUA claim prior to 12/27/2020: Do not take any action at this time. PA Dept of L&I will let you know when you should resume filing you benefit certifications. In the meantime, claimants should wait for further instructions before filing for additional weeks. Claimants enrolled in the programs prior to Dec. 26 should not file a new claim.
If you have never had a PUA claim and have now opened (or plan to open) a new PUA claim 12/27/2020 or later: you may complete the application to have a PUA claim (see below), and must begin filing your weekly certifications for benefits. No payments will be released until the Department receives federal guidance and fully implemented.
Note: Some claimants have reported seeing what they believe are errors in their PUA system dashboard, but this is due to the reprogramming and the correct amounts will be populated into claimants’ dashboards when the system is ready to accept the new claims.
PEUC claimants: Those who had claim weeks remaining on Dec. 26 can now file for and receive payments for eligible weeks. The additional 11 weeks provided by the extension of the federal CARES Act have not yet been added to claimants’ accounts and cannot be paid at this time. L&I will update claimants when these weeks become available.
State Extended Benefits (EB) were unaffected by the expiration and extension of the federally funded PUA and PEUC programs. Some claimants who filed EB claims on Jan. 10 did not receive their payments on time due to a programmatic glitch. The issue was identified and remedied and payments to the affected claimants were reissued on January 17, 2020
UI claimants with existing or expired claim balances should be aware of the following general guidelines:
- PUA and PEUC, FPUC will be automatically added and to the claimants’ benefits if they are eligible for the weeks outlined in the new legislation.
- Claimants who will have additional weeks in UI and PUA or PEUC due to state provisions (where applicable) should watch their state agency UI portal or website for updates that will allow additional weeks to be filed.
- Claimants will receive retroactive payments for all weeks they are eligible This applies to all enhanced benefit programs and people will receive backpay to the first day they were eligible.
- Claimants currently receiving benefits through the Extended Benefits program must finish all weeks of EB before receiving additional weeks of PEUC.
I will post additional details as they are released in coming days. So stay tuned for updates.
Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program – Now Expired/Paid
Pennsylvania has now paid out the 300 weekly payment under the LWA program, which provided supplemental payments to eligible unemployment benefits claimants who have been unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. The PA L&I department started making payments to eligible claimants starting September 17th (see latest LWA payout tracker by state ). A maximum of 6 weeks or $1800 of payments were made.
There was no new application for LWA. Claimants eligible for LWA will automatically receive LWA funds in addition to their weekly benefit amount as long they are eligible for unemployment benefits and unemployed or partially unemployed as a result of COVID-19.
If you are not on PUA, you will have to certify only ONCE for the LWA program. Complete your LWA Certification as soon as possible as funds are limited and not guaranteed. The LWA certification will be available when you’re due to file your biweekly claim, or it will be available if you are no longer filing. See more on the PA LWA page.
LWA Program Eligibility
- You must be fully or partially unemployed due to COVID-19, and
- You must have a weekly benefit rate + dependent allowance totaling $100 or more, and
- You must receive a payment each week from an existing UI program
Starting Sunday, Sept. 6, individuals should fill out their LWA certification using their UC PIN by selecting “Complete LWA Certification” in the same application used to file biweekly claims.
On Sept. 9, 2020 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notified L&I that the last week for LWA benefit program is Sept. 5, 2020 due to the fund’s depletion. This is not an L&I decision. No additional payments will be allowed after Sept. 5, 2020. Hence the maximum payout for the LWA program is 6 weeks, or $1800.
The new LWA payment would be in addition to Regular Unemployment Insurance (UI), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) payments currently available to unemployed workers. LWA Payments will will be retroactive to week ending August 1, 2020.
COVID 19 Enhanced Benefits and Payment Issues
Under the CARES act, there are three types of federal unemployment assistance now available:
• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): expands eligibility for individuals who are typically ineligible for
Unemployment benefits, for example independent contractors, and self-employed and “gig” workers. In general, PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Eligible, approved claimants who have no issues with their claim will receive their very first PUA payment – whether it’s the backdated lump sum payment or a regular weekly payment – within one week or less after filing their first certification. Claimants will receive their regular weekly payments within three business days after filing their weekly certification. Questions about your claims should be emailed to UCPUA@pa.gov. You should expect to receive a response within 7 days. This email address is for PUA questions only. Any emails unrelated to PUA will not receive a response.
Note – PUA claimants will notice a federally-required change in the weekly claim application for benefits, which was added to Pennsylvania’s PUA application on Friday, June 12. The U.S. Department of Labor requires individuals to certify for each week of PUA benefits claimed that they are unemployed for at least one of the valid COVID-19 reasons that cause their job loss.
Also going forward, recipients of unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) programs will be transitioned from paying by check to payment by electronic deposits on debit cards. This is to battle fraud and address delays in payments to several recipients. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) is providing debit cards via U.S. Bank ReliaCard, which is a secure, reliable, and prompt method of delivering funds, are being mailed to you at this time. You should expect to receive your card starting from about June 19, 2020, until July 7, 2020.
• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who previously collected state or federal unemployment compensation (UC) but exhausted those benefits. PEUC benefits are available to qualified individuals whose regular UC benefits exhausted July 6, 2019 or later; and are unemployed for weeks within the time frame of March 29 through December 26, 2020. Learn more about PEUC in the Pennsylvania PEUC Claimants Brochure (UCP-26) and PEUC FAQs for additional information.
• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) [NOW EXPIRED]: provides an additional $600 per week, on top of regular benefits. All individuals collecting any type of UC, including PEUC, will receive $600 per week in addition to their weekly benefits as calculated. FPUC payments began the week ending April 4, 2020 and will end July 25, 2020. UC claimants should now be receiving the FPUC payments, which are paid approximately one week after regular UC benefits are paid. Once the PUA Program is making payments, FPUC payments will be made retroactively for any backdated weeks of benefits for weeks ending April 4, 2020 and later. The $600 per week will be separate payments from your bi-weekly benefit.
Backdating your Unemployment Claim’s effective date
if you are looking to have the effective date of your claim earlier than the week in which you opened your claim, you can call the PUA Call Center at 855-284-8545 OR you can send an email request to UCpua@pa.gov.
Email Backdating Request:
- Include “Back Date Request” in the subject line of the email
- Provide exact dates and how COVID affected your employment or self-employment for the additional weeks you wish to claim.
- Examples: I want to backdate to March 22nd because I have not worked since March 20th and where I worked has remained closed due to the Governor’s closure orders.” OR “I want to go back to March 15th because I had to temporarily close my business until June 6th due to the Governor’s closure orders. Please note I don’t need to claim as of June 7 because I have re-opened my business as of June 8.”
- Send only one email request as they will be processed as fast as possible and multiple requests will only delay our ability to process in a timely manner.
Filing a Claim for Regular UI
At this time, only our Internet Initial Application for UC benefits is available. Click here to continue filing an application for PA UC benefits.
Filing a Claim for PEUC
Individuals who are currently receiving regular unemployment benefits do NOT need to apply. Once the balance of your benefits is received, you will automatically be enrolled in the PEUC program for the additional 13 weeks of benefits.
Filing an Initial Claim for PUA
Make sure to review the PUA System Guide for helpful information on what to have ready to prepare for registering and filing your initial claim. You’ll also want to collect proof of earnings documents in advance. Click here to File for PUA
You CAN manage everything through your PUA dashboard – check on your claim status, upload documents, see payment information, etc.
Getting Your Unemployment benefit payment
You can receive UC benefit payments either by debit card or direct deposit.
My employer offered me my job back but at reduced hours. I would make more staying on unemployment. Can I do this?
No. If you are offered work by your employer and refuse to accept it, even if it is at reduced hours, and your acceptance is without good cause, you may no longer be eligible for UC. Determining whether there was good cause for a refusal of work is driven by the facts of each claimant’s circumstances. UC staff would review those specific reasons and make determinations based on the facts of their individual cases.
If you do return to work at reduced hours, and this results in a reduced weekly income compared to your weekly income prior to filing for UC, you may be eligible for partial UC plus the $600 FPUC per week.
See more FAQs and Scenarios specific to PA residents here.