[Updated] Pennsylvania has now implemented all the enhanced unemployment programs – LWA, PUA, $600 FPUC, PEUC but is still behind in making retroactive payments. This is a known issue as their systems are having several technical glitches and struggling to handle the volume of claims, including 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 and how to file a claim. And per the official state unemployment website, they are aware of the ongoing issues people are experiencing when filing claims.
Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program
Pennsylvania had been approved (on August 24th) by FEMA for the $300 weekly payment under the LWA program, which provides 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 L&I department has updated technology requirements necessary for this program and 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 have been funded by FEMA.
Note – LWA payments are being made in multiple batches, meaning you will receive your LWA payments after you
are paid benefit payments for one of the qualifying programs. This will result in your regular benefits and
your LWA benefits being received approximately 1 week apart. The first round of LWA payments was 3 weeks ($900) with the remaining amount ($900) being paid in subsequent weeks.
There is 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.
The new Lost Wages program however does cut the original extra federal benefit ($600 FPUC) in half since the state cannot afford to boost the benefit by the additional $100 state contribution requested by Trump.
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.
This article was updated on October 14