This is a newly available emergency unemployment assistance program under the federal CARES Act. PUA provides assistance for unemployed or partially unemployed individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance and who are unable or unavailable to work due to COVID-19 related circumstances.
The Employment Development Department (EDD) will be accepting online applications for this program beginning on Tuesday, April 28. Check back on this page for the latest updates.
- Independent contractors
- Individuals without sufficient work history
- Individuals who have exhausted their regular and any extended UI benefits
- Must self-certify to be able and available to work except are unemployed due to COVID-19 related reason
Amount of Benefits
- Minimum weekly benefit amount of $167 (but weekly amount may be higher and equal the amount provided under regular UI, depending on proof of prior earnings)
- PLUS $600 for weeks between March 29, 2020 to July 25, 2020.**
When Benefits Start
Benefits can be retroactive to weeks starting on or after February 2, 2020, depending on your last day of work due to COVID-19 and regardless of when you submitted your claim application. The effective date of your claim will begin the Sunday of the week when you last worked and became unemployed due to reasons directly related to COVID-19.
Up to 39 weeks (minus any weeks of regular UI and certain extended UI benefits). Last week is week ending December 26, 2020.**
** Under the CARES Act of 2020, the $600 additional benefits are available through 07/31/20. However, the U.S. DOL has issued guidance to clarify that, for most Californians, the last full week of benefits will end on 07/25/20. Similarly, the PUA program has a legislative end date of 12/31/20, but for most Californians the last full week of benefits will end on 12/26/20.
1. How do I know if I am eligible for PUA?
You may qualify for PUA benefits if:
- You are unemployed, partially unemployed, unable to work or unavailable to work as a direct result of a COVID-19 related reason AND:
- You are a business owner, self-employed, independent contractor or gig worker (and are not participating in the UI Elective Coverage Program). You will be able to indicate if you have no employment wages (for example, you did not receive a W-2), solely for the purpose of applying for the PUA program (and not to be used for any other purpose). However, you may proceed with a regular UI claim if you believe you were misclassified and have wages from an employer.
- You are unemployed, partially unemployed, unable to work or unavailable to work as a direct result of a COVID-19 related reason AND:
- You don’t have sufficient work history. This generally means you don’t have enough wages reported as an employee during the last 18 months to establish a regular UI claim. This could be the case if you are self-employed or an independent contractor. But this could also be the case if you are an employee with insufficient earnings. To qualify for PUA based on insufficient work history, you must have been recently employed, which could be satisfied if you had a bona fide offer to start working on a specific date but were unable to start as a direct result of a COVID-19 related reason;
- You have collected all unemployment benefits for which you were eligible and remain unemployed or partially unemployed as a direct result of a COVID-19 reason. This means that you were qualified for regular UI but have exhausted those benefits, as well as any extended benefits.
2. What are the COVID-19 related reasons for being out of work under the PUA program?
COVID-19 related reasons for being out of work include the following:
- You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
- You are unable to work because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- 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.
- A child or other person in the household for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 and the school or facility care is required for you to work.
- You became the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
- You have to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
- Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
- You were scheduled to start a job that is now unavailable as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- You are unable to reach the place of employment as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- If you work as an independent contractor with reportable income, you may also qualify for PUA benefits if you are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities, and has thereby forced you to stop working.
3. How do I apply for PUA benefits?
You can file a PUA claim through UI Online, just as you would for regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. The EDD will begin accepting on-line applications from new applicants on Tuesday, April 28.
4. How much would I receive in PUA benefits?
In order to provide benefits as quickly as possible, payments will be issued in phases. If you qualify for PUA the initial payments you will receive are as follows:
- $167.00 per week, for each week from February 2, 2020 to March 28, 2020 that you were unemployed due to a COVID-19 related reason.
- $167.00 plus $600 per week, for each week from March 29, 2020 to July 25, 2020, that you are unemployed due to a COVID-19 related reason.
$167.00 per week, for each week from July 26, 2020 to December 26, 2020, that you are unemployed due to a COVID-19 related reason, up to a total of 39 weeks (minus any weeks of regular UI and certain extended UI benefits that you have received).
If you qualify for your claim to be backdated to an earlier PUA effective date based on your last day of work, you could receive payment for prior weeks you were unemployed due to COVID-19. You will be required to provide the EDD eligibility information every two weeks. This is known as certifying for benefits.
After these initial payments, depending on your prior earnings, your weekly amount of $167.00 per week may be increased. You will have an opportunity to certify your prior income on your PUA application. The EDD is working to establish efficient procedures to determine if an increase to the weekly PUA amount will be appropriate after an individual receives the initial weekly amount. In addition to applying to future benefits, any increase from the $167 amount also applies retroactively. This means that you may also receive payment to make up the difference you should have been paid if your benefits had initially been based on the increased amount. You will be notified of any increase that you are entitled to receive.
If you apply for PUA on April 28, 2020, the first day it will be available, and you certify you were unemployed due to COVID-19 since March 8, you have been unemployed for 7 full weeks. If you meet the COVID-19-related criteria for PUA, we will calculate your amount as follows—
March 8-March 28 = 3 weeks x $167/week = $501
March 29-April 25 = 4 weeks x $167/week (with extra $600) = $3,068
TOTAL: $3,569 (from March 8 – April 25)
5. How soon could I receive PUA benefits?
If approved and after certifying, you may be able to receive your first PUA payment within approximately 2 days if you have an existing EDD debit card (and there are no issues that require a further review of eligibility), and within 4 to 7 days when new debit cards and checks are mailed.
6. What if I believe I have been misclassified as an independent contractor, and I want to file a regular unemployment insurance (UI) claim, and not a PUA claim?
You can file a claim for regular UI benefits through UI Online. If you believe you were misclassified as an independent contractor and you actually earned wages as an employee, then you will have the option to list your employer and proceed with a regular UI claim. In order to determine eligibility for UI benefits, the EDD will conduct a wage investigation.
If you are an employee but you do not have sufficient earnings within the past 18 months to establish eligibility for regular UI, then you may have the option to apply for PUA.
7. Will I need to submit with my PUA Application any documents to prove income?
No, you do not need to submit any documents to the EDD with your PUA application. You will enter your total income for the 2019 Calendar Year on the application. Initially, this will be used to pay the minimum benefits of $167 per week plus $600 per week from March 29-July 25. If the income information you provide indicates that you meet an annual earnings threshold of $17,368 or more, the EDD will work as quickly as possible to verify your income using other resources available to the Department in order to increase your PUA weekly benefit amount. If additional information is needed, the EDD will contact you.
8. If the EDD contacts me and asks for proof of my income, what documents should I submit?
The EDD will inform you of the documents you can submit. In general, you may submit items such as an annual tax return, 1099 forms, W-2s, pay stubs, or other documents that show your income.
9. Which PUA applicants are eligible for an increase above the minimum of $167/week?
You may be eligible for more than the minimum weekly benefit amount of $167 if your annual income for 2019 that you report on your PUA application meets a minimum threshold. You will be required to substantiate that income if requested by the EDD. If you earned at or below this amount you will remain at $167/week. If you are entitled to more than the minimum, that higher amount will also apply retroactively to any weeks of the minimum $167/week in PUA benefits that you receive.
10. What should I do if I already filed a claim for regular unemployment insurance (UI) and I received a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award showing $0 in benefits?
If you filed for UI and received an award notice (which shows your weekly and maximum benefits amounts) indicating $0 in benefits available, it could be because of one of three scenarios:
- We could not verify your identity with our records. You will receive by mail instructions on how to verify your identity. You have 10 calendar days from the mail date to send us two different identity documents from the list of Acceptable Documents for Identity Verification(DE 1326CD) (PDF). Once we verify your identity, you’ll receive a new notice telling you what our wage records show for weekly UI benefit payments if you meet all other eligibility requirements.
- You were misclassified by your employer as an independent contractor (instead of an employee) OR your employer reported may have inadvertently reported your wage information incorrectly to the EDD. If you believe our record of your employment wages isn’t accurate, you may provide us with a brief summary of why you disagree with the notice and information about your wages, and request that we investigate your case. We will follow up to obtain any details or documentation needed to make a determination.
- You’re self-employed or an independent contractor and have not paid contributions to the state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. As part of the federal CARES Act, the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program helps unemployed Californians who are usually not eligible for regular state unemployment benefits and are unemployed or partially unemployed for reasons directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including business owners, the self-employed and those with limited recent work history.
NOTE: If you are one of the workers under #3 above (self-employed or independent contractor) who received the $0 benefit award notice, and you have not requested a wage investigation as described in #2 above, then you may apply for PUA by filing a new claim through UI Online beginning April 28.
11. What should I do if I believe I am an employee (and was misclassified as an independent contractor) but my claim for regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefits was denied because I have insufficient earnings?
If you believe you should be considered an employee but the EDD’s wage investigation concluded there weren’t sufficient earnings reported to substantiate a regular UI claim, then you will receive a form called a Notice of Status of Wages (this is different from a $0 benefit award notice). The Notice of Status of Wages indicates that you do not qualify for regular UI, and you may apply for PUA by filing a new claim through UI Online beginning April 28. If you believe the Notice of Status of Wages was in error, you have the right to appeal within 30 days. But if you appeal, then you should not apply for PUA.
12. I am already receiving regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Can I choose to switch over to PUA benefits if I want to identify myself as an independent contractor or as self-employed?
No. If you are already receiving regular UI benefits, then you cannot qualify for PUA benefits.
13. What if I’m out of work due to COVID-19, have a small amount of W-2 income, and a large amount of income from self-employment? Can I not declare the W-2 wages and just rely on self-employment to get PUA?
No, if EDD has wages reported from an employer over the last 18 months that would qualify you for a regular UI claim, then the EDD is required by law to proceed with a regular UI claim for you.
14. What should I do if I don’t know if I am eligible for UI or PUA?
UI OnlineSM is the EDD’s application portal for both regular UI and PUA claims. All applicants will be asked the same basic questions, including about employment history and earnings information, along with some new questions needed to determine PUA eligibility. Based on your responses as well as wage information reported to the EDD, the EDD will determine if your claim is processed as a regular UI claim or a PUA claim.
15. If I already applied for UI but I meant to apply for PUA, what do I do?
If you are self-employed, an independent contractor, or someone who may otherwise qualify for PUA, and you already filed for UI benefits (before April 28 when the PUA application is available), please read the information below carefully to ensure you get the right benefits as quickly as possible:
- If you have employee wages reported (e.g., as reported by an employer on a W-2) for the prior 18 months, and the amount of wages you earned qualifies you for a regular UI claim, then you do not qualify for PUA. You should follow EDD’s instructions as they relate to the UI claim that you already filed.
- If you have already received regular UI benefits and you still have a balance on your UI claim, you do not qualify for PUA at this time. Please follow these instructions to continue to get UI benefits.
- If you are still subject to penalty weeks on your regular UI claim, do NOT apply for PUA on April 28 [see Questions XX & YY]. You will receive information about how to access PUA benefits on or about May 2, 2020, when the EDD will mail notices to individuals who have penalty weeks or disqualifications. Please wait for that notice which will provide you information that you will need to respond to within 10 days of this mailed notice in order to determine your eligibility for PUA benefits. PUA benefits will not be paid unless you return the notice and we verify that you qualify for a PUA claim.
- If you do not have employee wages for the past 18 months (self-employed or an independent contractor), you may apply for PUA on April 28 or after. You do NOT need to cancel your existing UI claim. You do NOT need to call EDD about the prior UI claim you filed where you may have received either a notice from EDD indicating a $0 award amount, or a notice of disqualification. If you believe the $0 UI award amount or disqualification notice was in error and that you did receive wages as an employee that would qualify you for UI [for example, see Question #6 above], you have the right to appeal within 30 days. If you appeal the EDD notice about your UI claim, then do not apply for PUA.
- If you are eligible for PUA, you will receive PUA payments on an EDD Debit Card. If approved for PUA and after certifying for benefits, you may be able to receive your first PUA payment within approximately 2 days of your application if you have an existing EDD debit card (and there are no issues that require a further review of eligibility), and within 4 to 7 days when new debit cards and checks are mailed.
It is important to note that if you qualify for a regular UI claim (for example, see Question #12), then you may not file a PUA claim. However, you should look out for the following notices:
- If you receive a specific notice called the Notice of Status of Wages (this is different from the Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award that tells you your weekly and maximum benefit amounts), indicating that you do not have sufficient earnings to qualify for regular UI, then you may apply for PUA by filing a new claim through UI Online beginning April 28. If you appeal the Notice of Status of Wages on your regular UI claim, then you should not apply for PUA.
- If you receive a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award showing $0 in benefits, and you know that you are self-employed or an independent contractor so you do not appeal this decision on your UI claim, then you may apply for PUA by filing a new claim through UI Online beginning April 28.
16. I am unable to receive regular state Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits because I had to serve penalty weeks or was found ineligible. Is there any other financial assistance that I can receive?
You may be eligible to receive federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. The PUA program helps individuals who are not eligible for regular state UI benefits and who are unemployed, partially unemployed, unable to work, or unavailable to work as a direct result of a COVID-19 related reason. This includes individuals who cannot collect regular state UI benefits because they are serving penalty weeks or were found ineligible for benefits due to certain legal reasons.
For example, you may be eligible for PUA benefits if your unemployment is directly related to COVID-19, and you are ineligible for traditional UI benefits because you are serving penalty weeks or because you quit or were fired from a previous job.
17. If I am serving penalty weeks and am ineligible for UI, what do I need to do to get PUA?
Beginning on April 28, 2020, you may be eligible for PUA.
Individuals with active UI claims who are not receiving UI benefits because they are serving penalty weeks SHOULD NOT RE-APPLY FOR UI OR APPLY FOR PUA. If you have an active UI claim between the period February 2, 2020 to April 27, 2020, you will be mailed a notice as early as Saturday, May 2, 2020, with more information about the PUA program, how you can receive these benefits, and how to complete and return the notice to the EDD. On the notice, you will be asked to indicate whether your unemployment is a direct result of COVID-19. Eligible claimants will be paid retroactively for their past weeks of unemployment and will receive the extra $600 payments for each week they were unemployed beginning March 29, 2020 through July 25, 2020.
All payments required to be paid by the claimant, including overpayments and penalties associated with overpayments, still need to be paid.
If you have not applied for UI benefits by April 27, 2020 but know you are required to serve penalty weeks, please follow the normal benefits application process through UI Online and the EDD will mail you the self-certification notice by mail to complete and return.