Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program Available for Self-Employed

April 24, 2020

Under a new federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), self-employed individuals and others not eligible for regular unemployment compensation can apply for temporaryWorkForce West Virignia logo-1 unemployment benefits through WorkForce West Virginia.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits, including those who have exhausted all rights to such benefits. Individuals covered under PUA include the self-employed (e.g. independent contractors, gig economy workers, and workers for certain religious entities), those seeking part-time employment, individuals lacking sufficient work history, and those who otherwise do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits.

WorkForce West Virginia will start processing PUA applications on April 24 (after 10 p.m.). Visit WorkForce WV and select the PUA button to submit a PUA claim.   

How do I know if I should apply for "regular" unemployment compensation (UC) or for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?

You should file for regular UC if you have an employer and

• you have been laid off, or

• your hours have been reduced through no fault of your own, or

• you cannot work because a medical or public official has directed you to quarantine or self-isolate because of COVID-19 exposure, symptoms, or a positive diagnosis; or

• you are caring for someone who is suspected of having or has tested positive for COVID-19.

You should file for PUA if you are ineligible for regular UC because you have lost income due to COVID-19 and

• are self-employed, or

• are seeking part-time work, or

• lack sufficient work history, or

• have exhausted all rights to regular UC or extended benefits.

How do I know if I am eligible for PUA?

You may be eligible for PUA if you are self-employed, do not have sufficient work history to qualify for regular UC, or have exhausted your rights to regular UC benefits or extended benefits.

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to covered individuals who are not eligible for regular UC and who are otherwise able and available to work except that they are unemployed, partially employed, or because of any one of the following COVID-19-related reasons:

• You have been diagnosed with or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis;

• A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;

•You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;

• Your child or other person in the household for whom you are the primary caregiver is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that school or facility care is required for you to work;

• You are unable to reach your place of employment because of a quarantine or stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

• You are unable to reach your place of employment because you have been advised by a health care provider to self-isolate or quarantine because you are positive for or may have had exposure to someone who has or is suspected of having COVID-19;

• You were scheduled to start a new job and do not have an existing job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic;

• You have become the breadwinner/major supporter for a household because the head of your household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;

• You had to quit your job due to being diagnosed with COVID-19 and being unable to perform your work duties;

• Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do I determine if I am "self-employed"?

Federal guidelines for PUA define "self-employed individuals" as those whose primary reliance for income is on the performance of services in the individual's own business or on the individual's own farm. For the purposes of PUA, "self-employed" includes independent contractors, gig economy workers, and workers for certain religious entities.

In West Virginia, the determination of whether you are an "employee" or an "independent contractor" depends on the conditions of your work, not on what your employer tells you or how your employer has classified you.

To be considered an independent contractor, both of the following must be shown to the satisfaction of the department:

1. The individual has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of the services involved, both under the contract of service and in fact, and

2. As to such services, the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business.

Once a claimant has submitted a application, WorkForce WV will notify the individual if any other supporting documentation is needed. The claim will be managed like a regular unemployment claim. For questions regarding applications, please contact the Workforce WV hotline at 1-800-252-5627. 

For more information about the program and supported documentation needed, review the Panademic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Frequently Asked Questions.


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