On February 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) added three COVID-19 related reasons for which workers may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”).
The three new categories of workers eligible for PUA are:
Workers who would have been eligible for PUA under these new categories but were denied benefits will receive PUA benefits retroactively. Workers who filed for PUA before December 27, 2020, will receive benefits retroactively to the date of their eligibility. Workers who filed for PUA after December 27, 2020, will receive benefits retroactively to the weeks of unemployment beginning on or after Dec. 6, 2020.
Individuals who apply for PUA must self-certify that they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work for a COVID-19 related reason. Workers are not eligible for PUA if they are eligible for regular unemployment compensation (UC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), or Extended Benefits (EB). Workers are also not eligible for PUA if they can telework or if they are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits.
The DOL issued guidance to the state unemployment agencies on this expansion of PUA benefits. The DOL does not expect that states will be able to expand eligibility until the end of March, at the earliest, and reminds states that they may not charge employers for PUA benefits because PUA is fully funded by the federal government.