Note: This article has been updated to reflect the new programs and provisions in the second stimulus package.
For the first time nationally, independent contractors and gig workers can receive unemployment benefits â through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Millions of Americans have relied on this program since it was created by the first stimulus package in March 2020.
Depending on your state, PUA effectively expired on Dec. 26 or 27. At the 11th hour, lawmakers rallied to pass a second stimulus package, extending the program for 11 weeks. However, some states had to pause making PUA payments as they implemented the new rules.
The Penny Hoarder looked at the application process in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. when the program was first created. We compiled the information into an interactive map that shows you how to file in each state, then updated the information based on new provisions laid out in the second stimulus package.
This guide will explain everything you need to know about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
What Is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?
This $300 boost is known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).
How the Second Stimulus Package Changes PUA
Initially, the CARES Act authorized PUA payments for a maximum of 39 weeks. The second stimulus package extended PUA to 50 weeks total â or 11 extra weeks.
PUA now sunsets on March 14, 2021, unless extended by Congress and the Biden administration. Those who havenât exhausted their PUA benefits as of March 14, 2021, may continue receiving benefits until April 5, 2021.
One new and notable limitation: PUA used to be available retroactively as far back as January 2020. The new stimulus law tightens the window for retroactive PUA payments to Dec. 1, 2020, through March 14, 2021.
All PUA recipients should be expecting to file more paperwork, too. To curb fraud, the second stimulus deal forces current and new PUA recipients to submit documents related to employment or self-employment, according to the DOL.
The exact documents needed will be determined by your state agency, which is required to notify you. The deadline to file those documents is March 27, 2021. Defer to your stateâs deadline if different.
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How to File for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, State by State
Our interactive map includes PUA filing instructions for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Based on The Penny Hoarderâs analysis, 35 states and D.C. process PUA applicants using the same application for general unemployment. Only 15 states have separate PUA applications.
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Hereâs how we broke it down on the map.
To determine PUA eligibility, most states funnel applicants through the Unemployment Insurance system first. Those states require you to file two applications: state unemployment first, then PUA.
In such states, you must get denied Unemployment Insurance (UI) before applying for PUA. Only a handful of states have one streamlined, general unemployment application that determines your eligibility for both PUA or regular benefits.
For simplicity â and because in both instances your first step is filing a general unemployment claim â both methods are categorized as âgeneral unemployment (UI)â on the map, in darkÂ blue.
To see if you need to file two applications or one streamlined version, click your state on the map for specific filing instructions.
States marked in light blue have a PUA application separate from the regular Unemployment Insurance system. If you are a resident of one of these states, you can file for PUA directly so long as you meet the eligibility criteria.
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Documents Needed to File for PUA
If youâre ready to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, youâll need to gather several types of identification- and income-related documents.
Your state may require a few additional documents, but hereâs an overview:
- State-issued ID card.
- Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number.
- Mailing and residential address (if different).
- Bank account information for direct deposit, otherwise your benefits will arrive via a prepaid debit card or check.
- Tax return: Form 1040, Schedule C, F and/or SE.
- As many income statements as possible: bank receipts with deposit information, 1099 forms, W-2s, paycheck stubs, income summaries and business ledgers.
Income statements and related documents are crucial to proving how and when the coronavirus affected your earnings. For freelancers and independent contractors, it may be difficult to compile everything. Include as much as possible.
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Depending on which gig app you use and how much you earned, you may not have received any 1099 income forms in the mail. In that case, log on to the app and download your income statements.
Due to new rules outlined in the second stimulus package, state labor departments are once again scrambling. Hiccups should be expected while applying for, asking about or submitting documents related to PUA. Many gig workers and independent contractors warn of website crashes, unavailable customer service, confusing questionnaires and more.
Perseverance is key.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his âlatest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.