Updated unemployment compensation rules

submitted by Bianca A. Roberto, Esq., Stark & Stark

A new age of unemployment compensation has dawned in the United States. 

Millions of people have been unexpectedly laid off or furloughed by their employers due to business closures amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

Former employees are flooding their states’ unemployment bureaus’ online and telephone portals to file claims.

Generally, in Pennsylvania, you are required to file an unemployment compensation claim within the first week of being discharged from employment. 

The federal CARES Act has extended the time to file a claim, provides additional weeks of benefits, and increases the total weekly amount paid to claimants who were either self-employed, gig workers, or those who were not previously eligible to receive unemployment benefits. 

You could be eligible for benefits under the CARES Act if, due to COVID-19: (1) your employer reduces your hours; (2) your employer temporarily closes or goes out of business; (3) you have been told to quarantine or self-isolate, or you live or work in a county that has instituted preventative measures; or (4) you were told not to work to avoid spreading or getting the virus. 

Pennsylvania’s Office of Unemployment Compensation suggests filing online. 

If you are unable to file online, then you can contact the Office by telephone. 

Individuals who are eligible for benefits will receive a determination letter and PIN in the mail. 

If you are denied benefits, then you can appeal the decision. 

You are permitted to be represented by counsel at your own cost at any stage of the unemployment process. 

While it may take longer than usual to apply and receive your determination, applications are being processed and you can still receive benefits.