Expanded Unemployment Overview
The Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded unemployment benefits in three ways:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): Extends eligibility for unemployment benefits to independent contractors, freelancers, part-time workers, and others impacted by COVID-19
- Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC): Provided an additional $600 per week until 7/31/20
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): Allows for 13 additional weeks of coverage after state benefits have been exhausted
Claims for both traditional unemployment (UI) and PUA are handled on a state by state basis.
Department of Labor Resources
The Department of Labor appears to be regularly updating and streamlining its website to be more user-friendly and provide the most up-to-date guidance and information.
- Main Website
- General guide to filling for unemployment benefits (including COVID-19)
- Online Registration
Filing a Claim
For those still awaiting unemployment benefits, contacting your local representative may help to expedite the processing of your claim. Here are links to find your representatives:
Find Your State Assemblyman: Each office in California has a State Assemblyman that has staff that assists clients with stuck unemployment claims. The State Assemblyman that you should contact for help is based on your zip code and catchment.
Applying for these resources does not guarantee you will receive assistance. In some cases, you may be contacted only if you have been matched with a volunteer.
Volunteers of Legal Services (VOLS) Unemployed Workers Project
Provides free advice to low-wage, unemployed workers in New York who are seeking to access their government benefits, including updates as state and federal rules change.
- Call the Unemployed Workers Project hotline at 347.521.5720
- Fill out the interest form here
NY State Bar Association Unemployment Insurance Relief
Network of over 700 pro bono attorneys who have been trained on helping those applying for unemployment, or who have applied but were denied. Apply for assistance here.
Law Help California
List of legal resources for low-income people located in California
Bet Tzedek Justice for All
List of COVID-19 housing and workers resources in multiple languages.
Legal Aid At Work
Arnold & Porter Pro Bono Assistance
This law firm is providing free assistance to individuals who have lost jobs or have reduced hours as a result of COVID-19. Send your name and phone number to (please choose the appropriate city):
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I apply for PUC?
You do not need to apply for PUC. If you receive any amount of UI or PUA, you should have automatically received PUC through July 31. This is a flat $600 (less taxes, if applicable). If you are receiving your benefits via direct deposit, you may see two separate deposits on the same day each week.
Are unemployment benefits taxable?
Yes. You may elect whether to have the taxes withheld. The federal withholdings rate is 10%; state withholdings vary by state. The NY withholdings rate is 2.5%.
Am I eligible for UI or PUA benefits while working part-time?
Possibly. NY reduces your benefit amount by 25% for each day worked, in whole-day increments. For example, if you work one hour on Tuesday, you will receive $0 for that day. If you work 4 days, you will not receive any benefits for that week.
In which state should I apply?
Apply in the state where you were working at the time you became unemployed or unable to work due to COVID-19. If you worked in more than one state and met the minimum threshold to qualify for benefits in each, you may want to compare and choose the state in which you would receive the highest benefit.
If I had both W2 and 1099 income, will I receive both UI and PUA?
No. If you are eligible for traditional W2-based UI, and you earned sufficient W2 income during your base period to reach the minimum threshold for unemployment benefits, the amount of your benefit will be calculated based solely on your W2 income. You are only eligible to receive PUA if you are not eligible for traditional UI. NY has one streamlined application for traditional UI and PUA.
What if I was found ineligible, or I don’t think I am receiving the correct amount?
If you believe your Monetary Determination is incorrect, you can file a Request for Reconsideration. In NY, you can contact the Department of Labor Claimant Advocate Office and/or seek individual legal assistance.
I have been calling the unemployment office for days and days. How can I get someone on the phone?
Keep trying! The unemployment benefits system was not created for this level of volume, so patience and persistence are the rule of the day. Note that claims may take up to 8 weeks to process. You will be contacted to finalize your application if needed. Be sure to respond to all correspondence.