The CARES Act expanded Unemployment Insurance Benefits through three different programs:
- Pandemic Unemployment Compensation – increasing the amount of weekly benefits a qualifying individual may receive;
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – expanding the type of worker who can qualify for Unemployment Insurance;
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation – increasing the number of weeks a qualifying individual can receive benefits.
This section covers the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit, which provides assistance to workers typically not eligible for benefits under the traditional UI program.
If you are a Benefits Plus subscriber, for additional information on Unemployment Insurance Benefits, refer to Cash Benefits, Unemployment Insurance Benefits. For subscription information visit: https://bplc.cssny.org/home/subscription_options.
Traditional Unemployment Insurance Benefits Vs. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The NYS Department of Labor will first determine an applicant’s eligibility for traditional UI benefit and if found eligible will receive traditional UI benefits, the claimant cannot switch to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. However, individuals in receipt of traditional UI are entitled to the $600 per week of Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.
Description of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a temporary program that is currently scheduled to end December 31, 2020, unless the U.S. Congress acts.
The minimum PUA benefit amount is $182 per week and the maximum payment amount is $504 per week. In addition, PUA recipients are entitled to the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation of $600 per week, see above Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. For minimum and maximum benefit amounts under traditional UI, refer to Benefits Plus, Cash Benefits, Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Description of Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Benefit Amount.
FREQUENCY OF BENEFIT
Benefits are provided on a weekly basis, when an individual certifies for benefits, and did not earn more than $504 in the previous week or worked 4 or more days.
FORM OF BENEFIT
Individuals can select to receive benefits either through a debit card or direct deposit (deposited directly into the claimant’s checking account). Claimants will select their choice when they first file a claim.
Claimants will be able to change from direct debit card to direct deposit, or vice versa, by going to their online account and sign on with their NY.GOV ID username and password.
PUA claimants who were not eligible for traditional UI prior to the pandemic in the U.S. may be eligible for PUA beginning from January 27, 2020. That is, individuals who became unemployed before the pandemic in the U.S. and who were not eligible under traditional UI benefits, may be eligible for PUA and should apply and note the date of their last date of employment during the application process.
TAXATION OF PUA
Both PUA and Unemployment Insurance are subject to Federal, New York State and local taxes, provided the individual is required to file a tax return. Claimants have the option of having their Federal and/or State tax withheld from their benefits to help offset their yearly income tax liability.
Qualifying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
EXPANDED ELIGIBILITY TO NON-TRADITIONAL WORKERS
PUA provides unemployment insurance benefits to workers not traditionally eligible for traditional UI benefits including the self-employed, independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers, workers with a limited work history, if they are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. Coronavirus related-reasons include those who:
- Are diagnosed with COVID-19 or with COVID-19 symptoms and seeking diagnosis;
- This is only for individuals who have taken medical leave, when they took medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19
- If receiving medical leave, the individual is not eligible.
- Have a member of the household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Are providing care for family or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- This is only for individuals who have taken unpaid family and medical leave, when they took unpaid leave for reasons related to COVID-19
- Are the primary caregiver for a child unable to attend school or another facility closed due to COVID-19;
- However, these workers cannot continue to collect after the school year ends, absent some other qualifying circumstance.
- Are unable to reach place of employment due to an imposed quarantine or because advised by medical provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
- Was scheduled to commence new employment and cannot reach workplace as direct result of COVID-19;
- Who quit job as a direct result of COVID-19;
- Must quit as a result of ‘good cause.’
- Good cause includes when an employee refuses to return to work because they are at high risk from the virus and their employer cannot or does not make reasonable accommodations for them. DOL staff would review those reasons and make determinations based on the facts of the individual cases.
- It is important to document worker’s request for accommodations and the employer’s failure to accommodate.
- Whose place of employment closed as a direct result of COVID-19;
- Employees who telework with full pay are not eligible.
- Who is self-employed/Independent Contractors/1099 filers/Farmers affected by COVID-19
- Must have recorded earnings.
- Who has insufficient work history and affected by COVID-19;
- This includes individuals who do not qualify for traditional UI benefits because of insufficient work history, and lost job as a result of COVID-19.
Individuals receiving traditional UI benefits may be unable to return to work for reasons listed above. If this is the case, they would be eligible to continue to receive traditional UI benefits.
Employees whose employers temporarily closed down their place of business due to COVID-19 and who are furloughed, but employer intends to rehire them once the emergency has been lifted (that is, furloughed workers) may also apply for benefits.
PART TIME WORKERS
Employees whose hours have been reduced may be eligible for partial benefits, if they work less than 4 days a week and earned less than $504/week.
Filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
WHEN TO FILE
Claimants should file the first week they worked less than 4 days and earned less than $504.
HOW TO FILE
Online vs. Phone
Claimants should file online; most phone applications are NOT accepted at this time. There is an exception for those who cannot apply online or who do not speak English or Spanish. These claimants may contact the
Telephone Claims Center by phone at 1-888-209-8124
Claim Center Hours: Monday through Friday: 8 am to 7:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 7:30 am to 8:00 pm
For the Hearing Impaired
Helper may call the Telephone Claims Center at 1-888-783-1370.
TTY/TDD: Call a relay operator first at 1-800-662-1220, and ask the operator to call the Telephone Claims Center at 1-888-783-1370.
Starting the Claim
Note 1: The NYS Department of Labor (DOL) created a new system for filing claims as of April 10th. It is a streamlined application that allows New Yorkers to apply for both traditional UI or PUA.
The new streamlined application will determine which program, traditional UI or PUA, the claimant is eligible for and will prompt the claimant to answer program specific questions.
Note 2: For an introduction to filing for UI benefits from the NYS DOL, visit: https://dol.ny.gov/unemployment/file-your-first-claim-benefits.
Claimants should file on the day according to last name: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/how_to_file_claim.shtm. If claimant missed their date they should file on Thursday-Sunday.
Claimants may log-in at: https://unemployment.labor.ny.gov/login. Claimants must establish a NY.gov ID by creating username & password, if the claimant does not already have one.
The NYS DOL suggests having the following information available when the claimant is ready to file. Having these documents ready will speed the application process.
- Social Security number
- Driver’s license or Motor Vehicle ID card number
- Complete mailing address and zip code
- A phone number where DOL can reach the claimant from 8 am – 5 pm, Monday –Friday
- Alien Registration card number (if not a U.S. Citizen and claimants has a card)
- Names and addresses of all your employers for the last 18 months, including those in other states
- Employer Registration number or Federal Employer Identification Number of most recent employer (found on your W-2 forms)
- If a federal employee, copies of forms SF8 and SF50,
- Most recent separation form (DD 214), for military service
Completing the Application
Upon completing the application, all claimants, whether eligible for traditional UI or PUA, will receive a confirmation notice that includes a confirmation number. If possible, the claimant should print the confirmation notice, screen shot it to save in their computer, or copy the confirmation number down. This is the number claimants should use when contacting the NYS DOL. Claimants may also receive a confirmation notice in their account’s ‘In Box.’
PUA applicants will receive an additional set of questions they must complete. The NYS DOL will send a link in their NY.gov ID account’s InBox. PUA applicants should continue to check their InBox for this link. They may also be asked to upload supporting documents to verify their eligibility for PUA.
Upon completing the second set of questions for PUA, the claimant will receive a PUA application confirmation with the date they completed the application. Again, they should print this notice or screen shot it to save on their computer. If needed, the DOL will contact the claimant if any additional information is required, typically through their NY.gov ID account, or they may contact the claimant via a phone call.
New Yorkers who filed claims prior to April 10th and whose claim is still pending, were told to call the DOL Call Center to finish their application. However, the DOL indicates that such claimants should NOT call. Instead the NYS DOL call center will contact the individual directly or they may receive notice on the NY.gov ID account, to which they should respond.
Helpful Tips When Filing
- Include Phone Number in the Application
- The NYS DOL may also contact the claimant by phone to obtain additional information from the claimant.
- Many DOL representatives are working from home, so caller ID may show “PRIVATE CALLER.” Anyone calling from DOL will verify their identity by providing the date of the claim that was filed and the type of claim filed.
- Claimants should Check their “InBox” Regularly
- DOL will communicate messages, instructions, questionnaires through the claimant’s Inbox on their NY.gov ID account.
- Claimants must agree to check and respond to messages and questionnaires sent via the NY.gov secure message system and all messages, forms and letters sent by mail.
- Honesty is the Best Policy
- If there is a dispute with DOL the claimant will be able to provide a defense as to why they answered the way they did.
- If not able to provide a defense, and the DOL questions and determines the information is inaccurate, it could trigger penalties.
- If having trouble logging into the DOL account, visit: https://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/Authentication/general/technical-support-solutions.shtm for tips on problem solving.
- Individuals who have a NY.gov ID account who are having trouble logging in should call 888-469-7365, and press the number associated with their language.
- NYS DOL maintains a twitter account at https://twitter.com/NYSLabor.
- They occasionally post notices and important information for claimants.
Helping a Person Apply
For those who assist claimants to apply for benefits visit: https://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/factsheets/pdfs/P808.pdf.
Checking the Status of the Claim
PUA claimants who have been waiting for an eligibility determination after filing the application may check the status of the claim by going into their NY.gov ID account, locate the box with the title “Unemployment Insurance,” which allows the claimant to
- File a claim
- Claim weekly benefits
- View payment history
- Change their direct deposit information
- View/print 1099/G and change their tax withholding information
Claimants should click on “Unemployment Services” located in the lower right-hand corner. Next, they should click on “View Payment History.” The next screen will be the claimant’s Official Record of Benefit Payment History. It will include the following:
- Claimant’s name,
- Claimant’s Social Security number,
- Effective date of the claim (the date the claimant’s benefit year begins) and the claimant’s benefit year end date,
- Weekly benefit amount
- Maximum amount payment (this is the weekly benefit amount multiplied by 26 weeks, however, don’t forget that under Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation it can be extended an additional 13 weeks, see below, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation), and
- Effective days remaining (there are 4 effective days in each calendar week; multiply 4 x days 26 weeks = 104. 104 is the maximum number of effective days in a claimant’s account)
The record will also indicate whether the claim is pending, which means no payment has been made. Once the claim is approved, additional information regarding the $600 PUC is included on the page.
Receipt of Benefits
When Found Eligible
The NYS DOL states that the claimant’s first payment will generally be made three to four weeks from the time they filed their claim, although for many, especially PUA case, it is taking longer.
Claims filed will be backdated to the date the claimant became unemployed. If the claimant is eligible, they will be paid for all benefits due. DOL indicates that the first payment should include retroactive benefits, but the experience of some claimants is not in match this.
Monetary Benefit Determination Notice
As discussed above, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the application process determines whether the claimant is eligible for regular UI benefits or for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). NYS is required, under federal requirements, to send claimants who are ineligible for regular UI a Monetary Benefit Determination notice indicating they are not eligible for regular UI. PUA claimants do not need to take any action upon receipt of this notice. They will subsequently receive a separate Monetary Benefit Determination notice for their PUA benefit.
Certifying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
PUA Claimants Must Certify While Cases are Pended
While PUA claimants are waiting for a determination on their case, the NYS DOL indicates that PUA claimants should certify weekly. Most PUA claimants upon completion of their application do not receive notice to begin their weekly certification. Nevertheless, PUA claimants should begin the certification process upon completion of the application, as indicated on the NYS DOL website, found at https://dol.ny.gov/pandemic-unemployment-assistance.
How to Certify
Claimants must certify weekly via the phone or online to obtain their benefits. Currently it is probably best to certify online, as the Telephone Claims system is overloaded. Claimants should go to their NY.gov ID account and locate the box with the title “Unemployment Insurance.” This section allows the claimant to
- File a claim
- Claim weekly benefits
- View payment history
- Change their direct deposit information
- View/print 1099/G and change their tax withholding information
Claimants should click on “Unemployment Services” located in the lower right-hand corner. Next, they should click on “Claim Weekly Benefits.” The claimant will answer a series of questions. Upon completion, the system will notify the claimant that they completed certification for the previous week.
Reporting Work Activity/Earnings
Claimants should report any work activity during the previous week when claiming weekly UI benefits, including part-time, temporary or unpaid jobs. If the claimant fails to report this information accurately, there could be possible fraud charges.
During the certification/claiming process claimants will be asked how many days they worked in the previous week. If a claimant did work in the previous week, they should indicate the number of days worked. Next the system will ask whether they earned $504 or more in the previous week, and they should answer “yes” or “no” accordingly. Claimants who did not work in the previous week should indicate “0” days when asked how many days they worked in the previous week. When asked whether they earned $504 or more in the previous week, they should answer “N/A,” that is, not applicable. Since claimant did not work, the question is not applicable to them. If they answer “no” to this question, the system may think they have earned something, which may negatively impact their weekly payment amount.
Claimants who work 4 or more days in a week are not entitled to benefits, either the traditional UI rate or the PUA rate or the PUC $600 benefit. It is recommended that individuals who work only a couple of hours a day for 4 or more days request their employer to allow them to work all hours in one or three days to avoid this problem. In addition, claimants who earn $504 more a week are also not entitled to benefits for that week.
Case Example 1: Tony is a self-employed individual who began to collect PUA and PUC. During the past week he worked one day with a former client and earned $300. When he certified for weekly benefits, he answered “1” day. When asked whether he earned $504 or more he answered no. According to the NYS DOL rules, since he worked 1 day, his PUA benefit will be reduced by 25%, but he will receive the full $600 PUC benefit.
Case Example 2: In this example, Tony worked the following week for the same client and worked 3 days for the week and earned $775. When he certified for weekly benefits, he answered “3” days. When asked whether he earned $504 or more he answered yes. According to the NYS DOL rules, Tony would not be entitled to any of his PUA benefit and he would not be entitled to the $600 PUC benefit either.
Note: To learn more about how part-time work is handled by NYS DOL for beneficiaries, refer to Benefits Plus, Cash Benefits, Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Returning to Work, Work and Its Impact on Unemployment Insurance Benefits.
Ready, Willing and Able to Work
NYS DOL rules state that claimants must be ready, willing and able to work.
The DOL has published the following statement on their website, “We understand that many of you are unable to work due to COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of NYS on PAUSE. If you would otherwise be able to work, you should answer “yes” in order to receive your benefits.”
When Sheltering in/Moving to Another State/Another Country
Claimants who have moved to another state or who are sheltering in another state must notify DOL that they are no longer in NYS. Claimants should send notification through the secure e-mail system through the claimant’s NY.gov ID account.
If residing outside the country, this is could be problematic and person may be fined and denied benefits, if discovered.
Contacting the NYS Department of Labor
Claimants who want to contact the NYS DOL should go to their Inbox found on their NY.gov ID account. Find the box labeled “Messages.” Once there they can click on the drop-down box and compose a new message. The Inbox is also where DOL can send secure e-mails to the claimant. The claimant should check their Inbox frequently.