PA Unemployment Benefits & COVID-19

March 27, 2020

PA Unemployment Benefits & COVID-19

As a Pennsylvania employee adversely affected by COVID-19, navigating the unemployment compensation process can be complicated.   Herbein + Company is here to help with the following information that will assist you in the unemployment benefit process.  The following information is presented in a question and answer format and may not address every employee unemployment scenario.   

Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?
You may be eligible to collect unemployment benefits while you're out of work.  Unemployment insurance provides workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own with monetary payments for a specific period of time or until they find new jobs.  Additionally, a provision of the CARES Act, (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) signed into law on 3/27/2020, creates a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (through December 31, 2020) to help those not traditionally eligible for Unemployment Insurance including self-employed individuals, independent contractors, those with limited work history and those who are unable to work as a result of the coronavirus public health emergency. 

Each state sets guidelines that determine whether an individual will be eligible for unemployment benefits, and how much compensation they will receive. Those guidelines also determine how many weeks of benefits an unemployed worker can collect.  The federal government has recently provided states with additional flexibility in providing unemployment benefits because of the coronavirus (COVID-10).  Unemployment benefits can be available when:

  • your employer temporarily closes or goes out of business because of COVID-19
  • your employer reduces your hours because of COVID-19
  • You have been told not to report to work because your employer feels you may get or spread COVID-19
  • You have been told to quarantine or self-isolate, or live/work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts

Am I now eligible for benefits if I am a self-employed individual and didn't previously qualify for unemployment?
Yes. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program was created by this bill.  This program extends benefits to self-employed workers, gig workers, contractors and others who wouldn't otherwise qualify for unemployment compensation but cannot work due to the coronavirus emergency.

When should I apply for benefits?
Promptly file an unemployment claim in the first week you feel you are eligible for benefits.  

How do I apply for unemployment benefits? 
Understandably the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has been overwhelmed with unemployment claims.  The fastest and easiest way to apply is online at: Although unemployment claims can be made over the telephone, it is not a recommended option due to extremely long wait times.

I hear that I could potentially be receiving some additional sick time payments from my employer per one of the stimulus packages.  How will that affect my unemployment claim? 
If you will be receiving sick time payments at 100% of your regular pay from your employer, it is recommended that you apply for employment benefits to begin after sick time payments end in order to take full advantage of the 26-week benefit period.  Otherwise, when an unemployment claim is officially opened you will be asked on a bi-weekly basis to report any monies you have earned in either a full time or part time capacity.  Any monies you potentially earned while receiving unemployment would be reported at that time.  You may be subject to potential unemployment earnings limitations when earning money from another source when receiving unemployment. There is no “double-dipping” so to speak.         

How much money will I receive in my Pennsylvania unemployment benefits?
The weekly amount of benefits you may receive in Pennsylvania is based on a formula using your prior wages and is subject to a weekly maximum of $573.00. Most states, including Pennsylvania,  look at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year "base period" to determine the amount of your potential unemployment compensation.  More information can be found on Pennsylvania unemployment benefits as well as other states using the website links below.

Will the federal government assist with my unemployment benefit? 
Yes.  With the CARES Act, the federal government will increase unemployment benefits by $600 per week for 12 weeks.   Also, federal funding will expand eligibility from 26 weeks to 39 weeks.  There is no need to separately apply for this benefit, the $600 additional benefit will be included with your State payment

How long will my benefits last?  
The CARES Act enacted on 3/27/2020, has expanded eligibility from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. 

I was already collecting unemployment prior to the national emergency; will I now receive the additional $600 of benefits?    

Will my unemployment benefits be reduced if I made less than $600 before losing my job?
No. If you qualify for unemployment, the $600 per week applies regardless of your previous salary. 

Will I be eligible to receive benefits if my employer allows me to work remotely from home? 
No. Employed individuals working from home are not eligible for benefits.  

Is there still a “waiting week” to receive unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania?   
No.  Usually there is a one-week waiting period before an employee is eligible to receive any unemployment benefits.   The PA waiting week has been suspended.   

Are the Work Search and Work Registration requirements still in place in Pennsylvania?     
No.  Both requirements have also been suspended.     

Could I file a worker’s compensation claim due to COVID-19?
That depends   There are many complexities in filing any worker’s compensation claim and a COVID-19 Worker’s Compensation claim is certainly no exception.  Contact your employer or insurance professional for details or visit one of the following websites. 

There are many unanswered questions pertaining to how the COVID-19 crisis will impact unemployment claims in Pennsylvania as well as our surrounding states.  Please see the websites below for more detailed information for filing unemployment claims in your state.  State specific unemployment resources can be found with the links below. Most of the websites specifically address their state’s COVID-19 filing procedures. 




New York


New Jersey

For additional information contact us at

Article contributed by Steve Love.


Herbein is responding to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic with our Coronavirus Resource Center, which provides regularly updated information, answers to frequently asked questions and other resources to help during this global health crisis. Continue to check back for more updates in the coming weeks.