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Unemployment Benefits
& COVID-19 FAQs

As of: May 11, 2020

Unemployment Compensation claimants can also see additional FAQs about the general unemployment program. 

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​​My employer offered me my job back but I would make more staying on Unemployment.  Can I do this?

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No. If you are offered work by your employer and refuse to accept it, 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. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, examples of good cause may include:  an employer violates the Governor’s and Secretary of Health’s business closure orders and opens their business prematurely, or the person is at high risk of complications from the virus and their employer cannot make reasonable accommodations for them.  UC staff would review those specific reasons and make determinations based on the facts of their individual cases. 

My employer offered me my job back but at reduced hours.  I would make more staying on unemployment.  Can I do this?

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​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.  During the current COVID-19 pandemic, examples of good cause may include:  an employer violates the Governor's and Secretary of Health's business closure orders and opens their business prematurely, or the person is at high risk of complications from the virus and their employer cannot make reasonable accommodations for them.  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.

My employer is reopening in violation of the governor’s and secretary of health’s business closure orders. Am I still eligible for UC?

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Yes, if your employer violates the governor’s and secretary of heath’s business closure orders, you can refuse work and remain eligible for UC.

​Am I eligible for UC if I am out of work because my employer closed (temporarily or otherwise) because of COVID-19?


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​Yes. The fastest and easiest way is to file an initial claim online. After submitting your initial claim, you will receive a confirmation email with important details.

Effective March 16, 2020 through the remainder of the COVID-19 emergency declaration.

  • Work Search and Work Registration requirements are temporarily suspended for all UC claimants.

  • The Waiting Week requirement is also been temporarily suspended. This means that new claimants who are approved for UC benefits will receive payment for their first week of unemployment.

​Am I eligible for UC if I am quarantined due to COVID-19?

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If you are currently employed but have been directed by a healthcare provider, medical professional or public official to isolate or quarantine, you may be eligible for UC. Follow the instructions above to file an initial claim.

You may also be eligible for paid sick leave as provided under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Before returning to work, please consult the PA Department of Health guidance on home isolation or quarantine and returning to work after COVID-19 exposure.

​Am I eligible for UC if my hours are being reduced because of COVID-19?

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​You may be eligible and should file an initial claim online.

​I am a part-time employee. Am I eligible for UC benefits if I have to self-isolate/quarantine or am unable to work because I tested positive for COVID-19?

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Yes, you may be eligible. The fastest and easiest way is to file an initial claim online. After submitting your initial claim online, you will receive a confirmation email with important details.

You may also be eligible for paid sick leave as provided under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Before returning to work, please consult the PA Department of Health guidance on home isolation or quarantine and returning to work after COVID-19 exposure.

​Am I eligible for UC if I am employed by a school that has been closed by order of the Governor?

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If you are no longer being paid, you may be eligible for UC.

​Am I eligible for UC if I have paid leave?

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​If your business is still operating but you are unable to work due to COVID-19, talk to your employer about use of paid leave vs. filing for UC.

  • Most paid leave will provide 100 percent of your usual pay, while unemployment benefits typically pay between 50 to 70 percent, depending on your circumstances.

  • Paid leave may be available immediately and allow you to keep receiving a paycheck; it typically takes two to four weeks to receive UC benefits.

  • You may file a UC claim if you know you will exhaust your paid leave. You must report all income received from any source, including paid leave.  

Learn more about financial eligibility here.

​Am I eligible for UC if my employer offers me the ability to telework/telecommute/work from home?

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​If your employer offers you telework and you are able to perform that work, you are not eligible for UC. However, if the telework your employer offers results in a reduction of hours, you may be eligible for UC benefits. 

​Can I access UC if my child's school has been closed and I stay home with them?

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The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).  PUA may provide paid benefits to an individual who cannot attend work or telework and who is the primary caregiver of a child or other person in their household who is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and the school or facility is required for the individual to work.

Additionally, you may be eligible for paid sick leave or expanded Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) as provided under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Labor website.

​Can I file for UC benefits if I was told to stay home because my employer thinks I am a risk of spreading or at risk of contracting COVID-19?

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If you are not receiving pay or using employer-paid sick leave or time off, you may be eligible for UC benefits. You should file an initial claim online.

You may also be eligible for paid sick leave as provided under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Labor website.

If you or your employer is unsure of your risk to COVID-19, the PA Department of Health has created a "risk assessment tool" to help businesses make decisions about operations and employee and customer safety during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Before returning to work, please consult the PA Department of Health guidance on home isolation or quarantine and returning to work after COVID-19 exposure.

​What if my employer goes out of business as a result of COVID-19?

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​If you are out of work due to lack of work, you may be eligible for UC benefits.  See "Am I eligible for UC  if I am out of work because my employer closed (temporarily or otherwise) because of COVID-19?" for more information.

​Have any UC rules changed due to the Governor's emergency declaration regarding COVID-19?

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​The following rules have been temporarily suspended due to Governor Tom Wolf's emergency declaration to make it easier to file for UC benefits:

  • Work Search and Work Registration requirements are temporarily suspended for all UC claimants. Claimants are not required to prove they have applied or searched for a new job to maintain their UC benefits. Claimants are also not required to register with PACareerLink.pa.gov.

  • The Waiting Week is temporarily suspended for all UC claimants. Previously, eligible claimants would not receive compensation for the first week of unemployment.  Eligible claimants may now receive benefits for the first week that they are unemployed.

The Work Search and Waiting Week will continue to be suspending for the remainder of the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration.

​How am I supposed to meet requirements related to my existing UC claim if I am in isolation or quarantine as a result of COVID-19?

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​Under Pennsylvania's emergency rules currently in place due to COVID-19, the need for work registration and work search for UC benefit eligibility has been waived. You should continue to file your bi-weekly claims.

​What should I do if I contract COVID-19 at work?

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​Please see L&I's Workers' Compensation information to learn more. You can also learn more on our Workers' Compensation COVID-19 FAQs.

​How much in benefits will I receive?

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Benefits are based on your reported earnings during the base year (the first four of the last five completed quarters). You must also have over 18 credit weeks (weeks during which you earned $116 or more) in your base year to be eligible.

Click here to find out how to calculate your weekly benefit rate

Additionally, the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 provides for a temporary emergency increase in unemployment compensation (UC) benefits, referred to as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

This program provides an eligible individual with $600 per week on top of the weekly benefit amount he or she receives from certain other UC programs. An individual must first be eligible for UC benefits to qualify for the additional $600 per week in benefits.

Learn more at the FPUC FAQs page.

​How long will it take to receive my benefits?

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​Eligible claimants typically receive their UC benefits in two to four weeks for their initial claim. Benefit payments are issued via a debit card provided by the UC office or through direct deposit.

I receive most of my income from tips, am I eligible for UC?

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​Yes, you may be eligible for UC. Your weekly benefit amount is based on the total wages, including tips, reported by your employer in the base year (the first four of the last five quarters).

I heard the federal government passed a bill that will give people paid leave.  Should I still file for UC?

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The federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on March 18, 2020. Individuals whose employers have fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for paid leave through this new law. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Labor website, which administers both programs.

If I am an undocumented immigrant or my work visa has expired, am I eligible for UC benefits?

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Individuals applying for unemployment compensation benefits must be US citizens or lawful residents of the US, or have work authorizations to work in the US.

If I have concerns about my health, do I have to report to work?

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It depends upon whether your work is deemed essential or not and your medical risk.  If you are in a population particularly susceptible to COVID-19 and are directed by a medical professional or government official to quarantine or self-isolate, you may be eligible for UC. 

If you or your employer is unsure of your risk to COVID-19, the PA Department of Health has created a "risk assessment tool" to help businesses make decisions about operations and employee and customer safety during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Can my employer fire me if I am concerned about COVID-19 and stay home?

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Depending on your situation, your employer may be able to terminate your employment if you do not report to work as required by the employer.  Employment in Pennsylvania is “at-will,” unless you have a contract with your employer, or you are a member of a union with a collective bargaining agreement. If you are a member of a union, contact your union representative.

Can I pre-apply for UC if I will be experience a layoff or furlough in the next few weeks?

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No. Individuals should file for UC the first week that their income has reduced. Do not apply in anticipation of a layoff or furlough, because your claim may be denied or delayed.

I am a naturalized or authorized worker. How should I submit my documentation to receive unemployment benefits?

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Every naturalized or authorized worker MUST email or mail legible copies of the front and back of their Social Security Card and Employment (Work) Authorization Document within 14 calendar days to be eligible to receive benefits. 

If sending the documents via email, please send to greencard@pa.gov with the email subject as: First & Last Name.

If mailing, please mail to:

651 Boas Street

Central Office, Room 625,

Attn: Jen M.

Harrisburg, PA 17121