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Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment Benefits

If you have lost your job through no fault of your own, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

This guide will help you navigate the process of applying for unemployment compensation and connect you with additional resources available as part of the federal and state response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quick Links

Important Updates

If you are employed in Pennsylvania and are unable to work because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation benefits.

The following changes to UC have been made to help Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • The Waiting Week is suspended. Previously, claimants were not eligible for benefits during their first week of unemployment (the “waiting week”). This has been suspended; eligible claimants may receive benefits for the first week that they are unemployed.
  • Work Search and Work Registration requirements are temporarily waived 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.gov.
  • People who exhaust their regular unemployment compensation (UC) and federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) may now qualify for 13 additional weeks of payments through the state’s Unemployment Compensation Extended Benefits program.

Please note: federal programs that offer benefits like training, education, skill building and fund benefits, including the Trade Adjustment Assistance program and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act still require claimants to register with PACareerLink.pa.gov to be eligible for the federal benefits. Not registering will not impact an individual’s unemployment benefits; however, it may prevent them from being eligible for other federal benefit opportunities.

Unemployment Compensation

Eligibility

These resources can help you decide if you may be eligible:

We cannot say for certain if you are eligible, ineligible, or what your repayment may be until you file an initial claim. Your eligibility will ultimately be based on the information provided by you and your employer(s).

Benefits

Unemployment benefits are calculated as a percentage of your average pay over a recent 52-week period. Here’s how you can calculate your weekly benefit rate.

If you are eligible for benefits, you should receive your first benefit payment within four weeks after the effective date of your application, provided you file your biweekly claims on time.

Moving forward, you’ll receive payment within two to three days after filing your biweekly claim.

Process Overview

1. File Initial Claim

If you file online, you’ll receive a confirmation page at the end of the online application AND a confirmation email. This email will include the date you will need to file your continued claim — also called your biweekly claim.

No matter what day of the week you submit your initial claim, it will be effective on Sunday. Your initial claim will remain active for one year and between 18 and 26 full weeks of benefit payments will be available.

2. Receive Claim Confirmation Letter by Mail

Keep this letter in a safe place. It will have your four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) that you will need to access your account AND file your biweekly claims.Claim confirmation letters are typically received within 7-10 business days via U.S. Postal Service.

3. File Biweekly Claim

Two weeks after your initial claim, you will file your biweekly claim. The biweekly claim tells us that you were unemployed for that two week period so that we can provide your temporary financial support.You’ll file online or using Pennsylvania Teleclaims by calling 888-255-4728.

It can take up to four to six weeks to receive the approval of your first biweekly claim. You should continue to file biweekly claims during this time.

Moving forward, you’ll receive payment within two to three days after filing your biweekly claim. If you file your biweekly claim on:

  • Sunday = funds available by Tuesday
  • Monday = funds available by Wednesday
  • Tuesday = funds available by Thursday
  • Wednesday = funds available by Friday
  • Thursday = funds available by Monday
  • Friday or Saturday = funds available by Tuesday

Note: Payments may be delayed if there is an eligibility issue that must be resolved before payment can be made.

Don’t forget to file your biweekly claim or you could lose your benefits.

4. Receive Financial Determination Letter

Keep this letter in a safe place. It states your financial eligibility.Financial determination letters are typically received within 10-15 business days via U.S. Postal Service.

Your financial determination letter will tell you:

  • Your application for benefits date (AB date) AND the date your claim expires.
  • Your weekly benefit amount and eligible weeks AND how they were calculated.
  • How much you will receive if you are totally unemployed and how to estimate your partial benefits for part-time work.

5. Claim Issues

If there is an issue with your claim, you will be asked to contact our team by the system. Please do so via email at uchelp@pa.gov and send only one email to prevent delays.For specific questions about your claim, provide your full name (as it appears on your claim, including any suffix used) and the last four digits of your Social Security Number.

How to File

What You Need Before You Get Started

Personal Information:

  • SSN.
  • Home address and mailing address (if different).
  • Telephone number.
  • Valid email.
  • Personal Identification Number (optional). If you have previously filed a UC claim using your previous PIN can prevent you from having to re-enter information.
  • Direct deposit bank information (optional): Bank name, address, account number, and routing number.

In some cases, additional information is needed. For a complete list, view our requirements checklist.

Information about Separating Employer:

  • Employer’s name, address, and phone number.
  • Employer’s PA UC account number (if known).
  • First and last day worked with employer.
  • Reason for leaving.
  • Pension or severance package information (if applicable).

Tools to Help You File

  • Frequently Asked Questions – A resource to help answer any questions you may have about filing or receiving unemployment compensation benefits, including eligibility, how your weekly benefit is calculated and more.
  • Self-service Step-by-step Instructions – These step-by-step guides and instructions will guide you through many UC online services, including how to file an initial claim, how to file a biweekly claim, and more.
  • Online Assistant: Filing an Initial Claim – This step-by-step guide will walk you through filing your initial UC claim online, helping you ensure it is processed quickly and correctly. Not sure how to use the guide? Take a quick tour via PDF or video.

File an Initial Claim

You should file your UC application for benefits using one of the following methods:

  • Online – An online application can be filed using our secure website 7 days a week, 24 hours
  • Telephone – An application can be filed on the statewide unemployment compensation toll-free number at 1-888-313-7284.
  • Mail – A paper application can be mailed to a UC service center.
  • Videophone service – For individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) videophone service is available every Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m. at 717-704-8474. Sign language is the ONLY means of communication provided through the Videophone.

Reopen an Existing Claim

If you fall into one of the categories listed below, you should file an application to reopen an existing application for benefits.

  1. You established an application for benefits within the past year, and then gained employment and stopped filing for UC benefits. If you become unemployed again, you should reopen your application for benefits during the first week that you are unemployed again.
  2. You established an application for benefits, but you stopped filing claims because you were ill, hospitalized, or otherwise unable to work. You should reopen your claim as soon as you are able and available for work again.

“Reopen” applications can be filed using the same methods listed above for filing an initial application for UC benefits.

File a Biweekly Claim

After you have filed your initial application for UC benefits or reopened an existing application, you must file a claim for each week in which you are totally or partially unemployed.

A week for UC purposes begins on a Sunday and ends on a Saturday. The compensable week ending (CWE) date is always a Saturday.

In most cases, you will file claims for two weeks at one time. This is called a “biweekly claim”. Although you will file for two weeks at a time, you will certify your eligibility for each week separately.

Biweekly filing can be done using the following methods:

If you are eligible for benefits, you should receive your first benefit payment within four weeks after the effective date of your application, provided you file your biweekly claims on time.

COVID-19 Benefits

If you are employed in Pennsylvania and are unable to work because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for regular unemployment compensation benefits.

In addition to regular unemployment compensation benefits, which provide roughly half of an individual’s full-time weekly income up to $572 per week, the federal CARES Act expanded UC benefits through several new programs:

Questions?

If you have an issue with your claim, there are several ways to contact UC staff.

Virtual assistant – Call 877-978-1295 to have our UC virtual assistant powered by Watson answer your frequently asked questions any time, 24/7. Please note that this system does not connect to our UC Customer Service Center staff and only provides virtual assistance.

LiveChat – Call 888-313-7284 for a secure 6-digit LiveChat code to reach UC staff Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Email – For claims questions, email uchelp@pa.gov and include your full name as it appears on your claim (including suffix used) and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Get email wait response times here. We respond to emails in the order we receive them, so sending duplicates will not result in a quicker response and will actually cause delays for everyone.

General contact form – To make a general comment on UC services, or if you have questions not covered by information on the UC website, use this form.

Pennsylvania Teleclaims (PAT) – This automated self-service system can be used to file biweekly UC claims, access specific benefit payment information, or learn about UC without needing to talk to a person. You can also use PAT to request/change federal withholding tax, get UC-1099G information, and change your PIN. For English, call 888-255-4728. For Spanish, call 877-888-8104.

TTY Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing – Call 888-334-4046 Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Videophone service for ASL users – Call 717-704-8474 Wednesdays from Noon to 4:00 PM. Sign language is the ONLY means of communication provided at this number.

UC Service Call Center – If you have tried other methods to find your answer without success, try the UC Service Call Center phone – Call 888-313-7284 Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM to reach UC staff. The best time to try calling the UC service center is Thursdays and Fridays. Be prepared for heavy call volumes, busy signals, and potential delays in getting through.

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