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FAQ: What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and how do I apply?

The new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program makes Uber

The new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program makes Uber and Lyft drivers eligible for benefits. Credit: Getty Images/Mario Tama

While unemployment insurance benefits have been a saving grace for the 1.5 million New Yorkers who have received payments so far, a new federal program — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — is in place to aid workers not traditionally covered by state jobless benefits.

PUA, created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, extends benefits to gig workers, like those who drive for Uber and Lyft, independent contractors, the self employed and many others not eligible for traditional unemployment. 

The state Labor Department this week rolled out a new process that eliminates the need for these workers to first apply for and be denied traditional unemployment insurance before applying for PUA. 

What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?
A new federal program that provides financial aid akin to unemployment insurance to Americans who are ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits.

Who should apply for PUA?

The biggest determining factor for eligibility for PUA benefits is whether COVID-19 has impacted an applicant’s ability to work. In addition to covering independent contractors, gig workers and the self-employed who have lost work because of the pandemic, PUA can cover a host of other situations: parents forced to stay home due to school closures, those not working because they have been diagnosed with or are showing COVID-19 symptoms, those who quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19, or those who otherwise would not qualify for regular or extended unemployment insurance benefits.

What will I receive under PUA?

Qualified claimants will receive financial aid based on their recent earnings. Additionally, they will receive an extra $600 per week until July 31.

How do I apply for PUA benefits?

The state Labor Department has launched a new online application that allows New Yorkers to apply for either traditional unemployment insurance or PUA, depending on their eligibility. Applicants seeking PUA do not have to complete a separate application. The DOL recommends applying online by visiting unemployment.labor.ny.gov.

From there, the online application will determine which program applicants are best suited for and prompt them to answer questions specific to that program. A DOL representative will call applicants if any additional information is needed.

What should I do if I have already applied for PUA?

Those that have already applied or PUA benefits do not need to take further action. If additional info is needed, a DOL representative will contact applicants.

What should I do if I am unsure of the status of a submitted application?

Applicants can check the status of their claim online by logging into their NY.Gov account on the DOL website. If claimants see that an application is still pending, no action is required. If an application has been denied, applicants should fill out the PUA application link that is in their account mailbox. If there is no link in their mailbox, they should fill out a new PUA application.

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