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COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Guidance

Even if you are not eligible for traditional unemployment insurance, the CARES Act may provide the opportunity for you to receive government benefits.

Historically, self-employed individuals and independent contractors were unable to avail themselves of unemployment benefits. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a component of The CARES Act, funds states in order to provide unemployment insurance coverage to workers not normally eligible for unemployment benefits. The PUA benefits vary by state; however, eligibility includes individuals who are unable to work because they:

  1. Are diagnosed with COVID-19, have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking diagnosis or have a member of their household diagnosed with COVID-19;
  2. Are unable to reach their place of employment due to an imposed quarantine or have been advised by their medical provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
  3. Quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19 or had their place of employment closed as a direct result of COVID-19;
  4. Are the primary caregiver for a child whose school or care facility closed due to COVID-19;
  5. Were scheduled to start new employment and cannot reach the workplace due to COVID-19;
  6. Are a freelance, independent contractor or “gig” worker that has no work or reduced hours due to COVID-19;
  7. A worker who has used all 26 weeks of unemployment and remains unemployed;
  8. Meet any additional criteria specified by U.S. Secretary of Labor.
For more information or questions regarding unemployment assistance related to COVID-19, please contact a member of Withum’s SBA Financial Assistance Services Group.

Additional considerations include:

  1. An individual who has the capability to work remotely or is receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits, is ineligible for PUA benefits;
  2. An individual cannot apply for PUA benefits until they have been determined ineligible for standard W-2 unemployment insurance benefits.

The application should be filed in the state of employment and can be prepared online by accessing the applicable state’s Department of Labor website. PUA benefits vary by state; however, claimants can receive benefits for up to 39 weeks. Moreover, PUA benefits are paid retroactively to the first day of employment loss. Recipients are also eligible to receive Pandemic Unemployment Compensation of $600 per week on top of the PUA benefits.

Authors: Thomas Reck, CPA/ABV, CFF | treck@withum.com and Ta’Shan Jones, CPA | tjones@withum.com

SBA Financial Assistance Services

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