UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

New unemployment benefits (PUA) tracker: how to check my status

Federal pandemic unemployment programs have been extended again as the pandemic passes the one-year anniversary. Find out how you can track your payments.

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New unemployment benefits (PUA) tracker: how to check my status
NICK OXFORD REUTERS

The federal government has stepped in once again to shore up unemployment benefits to keep American families afloat hopefully through the end of the covid-19 pandemic. Those who are not generally eligible to receive state unemployment insurance will be able to claim compensation through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. As well, their weekly payments will be topped up with an additional $300 booster.

Although the programs are federally funded, the states are responsible for handing out the money to those claiming the benefits. Each state has its own set of requirements for how to apply for unemployment insurance, so you will need to visit your state’s agency in charge of distributing the funds. Through your state’s agency you will be able to track the payments as well.

Who is eligible for PUA unemployment benefits?

Normally, unemployment benefits are reserved for full-time employees who lose their jobs. With the expanded coverage, part-time and self-employed workers may now qualify.

The Cares Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides benefits to citizens who would not normally be eligible for unemployment benefits from their state unemployment insurance, including gig workers, freelancers, independent contractors and small business owners whose income has been affected by covid-19. For now, PUA funding is set to run through 6 September, 2021.

You may also be eligible to collect PUA unemployment benefits if:

  • You or a family member have been infected by covid-19 and cannot work.
  • You have been advised by a doctor to self-quarantine.
  • Your workplace closed due to the coronavirus.
  • You're not working because you have to care for children or other family members who would otherwise attend school or another facility.
  • For college students who worked a job last year - even a part-time one.

Eligibility standards vary from state to state, or territory. To determine what you need to do to receive the money, the best advice is to check with your state unemployment office. Most online portals will provide a Frequently Asked Questions pages to check the eligibility requirements to make sure that the PUA is the right program for you.

If you are already collecting PUA payments, some states may have initial problems seamlessly continuing payments. Even though the American Rescue Plan was passed before the 14 March cutoff date, there may still be delays in reprogramming the state computers.

How do I claim unemployment support?

Here we provide some general tips to get started.

Advice for unemployment benefit applications:

  • As soon as possible after you become unemployed, you should contact your state's unemployment insurance programme.
  • The claim should usually be made with the state where you last 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.
  • To file the claim you will need addresses and dates of your former employment, so be sure to give the correct information to avoid delays.

You can find the contact information for your state's unemployment office on the US Department of Labor Online Portal.

How do I check the status of my unemployment benefit claim?

If you've made your initial claim and are waiting for and update, your state’s labor department will have your details so contact them directly by email of phone. Alternatively there may be an online portal on the site to pull up your status automatically online. If you’re not sure how to find the right contact, the government Benefits Finder is a good place to start. Just input your state and you’re on your way.

Are benefits the same for everybody?

No. Payment amounts depend on a worker’s prior wages, generally calculated over the last past fiscal year. They also vary significantly between states, which tend to use different formulas to calculate aid. Generally, unemployment insurance in most states replaces between 30–50 percent of lost earnings.

What amount of unemployment benefits will I get?

The average jobless American receives $378 a week in unemployment benefits, according to US Labor Department data from 2019, but this number varies wildly state by state and depends on your individual circumstances. With the extended benefits Americans can receive an extra $300 per week in addition to their state unemployment insurance and on top of the federal pandemic unemployment programs.

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