CARES ACT AND UNEMPLOYMENT QUESTIONS
We Understand that this is a confusing and stressful time. Due to an influx of calls to our offices, phone lines are often busy or have long hold times. We want to make sure your questions are answered as quickly and easily as possible. Please read through these frequently asked questions if you are confused or have concerns about your unemployment benefits options. Stay strong West Virginia.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Questions
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 provides for a temporary emergency increase in unemployment compensation benefits, referred to as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. This program provides an eligible individual with $600 per week on top of the weekly benefit amount he or she receives from certain other unemployment benefit programs. An individual must first be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits to qualify for the additional $600 per week in benefits. Individuals don’t need to do anything extra to receive the $600. Continue to file biweekly claims and benefits will be automatically updated.
When do I start getting the extra $600 a week?
Beginning the week that ends April 4, 2020 and all eligible weeks through July 25, 2020, individuals will receive the extra $600 Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation for all weeks they receive unemployment compensation or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.
I already filed a bi-weekly claim for past weeks, do I still get the extra $600? When will I receive it?
Individuals will receive the $600 Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation for all weeks they receive unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, beginning the week that ends on April 4, 2020, and all eligible weeks through July 25, 2020. The $600 per week will be paid weekly and will be included in your weekly benefit.
I'm not usually eligible for Unemployment Compensation but am now eligible because of expansions to Unemployment Compensation. Do I get the extra $600 a week?
Yes, all individuals who are eligible and receive regular Unemployment Compensation or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will receive the $600 Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation per week.
Will the extra $600 a week affect my eligibility for public assistance programs?
The extra $600 Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation per week will not affect eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP. We are still awaiting guidance on any effects Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation may have on other forms of public assistance, such as SNAP and TANF.
How long will the extra $600 a week be available?
Once implemented, the $600 Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation payments will be backdated to all eligible weeks for which individuals claim unemployment compensation or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance beginning the week ending April 4, 2020 and will be paid for all eligible weeks claimed through July 25, 2020.
My job reduced my hours and I am collecting unemployment compensation or will be filing for unemployment compensation. Am I eligible for the extra $600 a week?
Yes. All individuals collecting regular unemployment compensation or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are eligible for the $600 per week.
My employer offered me my job back, but at reduced hours. I would make more staying on Unemployment. Can I do this?
No. If your employer offers you work, you must accept that work or you may no longer be eligible for unemployment compensation. I f you return to work at reduced hours, and this results in a reduced weekly income compared to your weekly income prior to filing for unemployment compensation, you may be eligible for partial unemployment compensation plus the $600 Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation per week.
Do I have to pay taxes on the extra $600?
Yes, Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation is taxable and will be subject to 10% Federal Withholding Tax, if you elected to have taxes withheld from your regular unemployment compensation or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits. For information about changing your election visit www.workforcewv.org.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act creates a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
In general, 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.
How do I know if I should apply for "regular" unemployment compensation or for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
You should file for regular unemployment compensation if you have an employer and
- you have been laid off
- your hours have been reduced through no fault of your own
- 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
- 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 unemployment compensation because you have lost income due to COVID-19 and
- are self-employed
- are seeking part-time work
- lack sufficient work history
- have exhausted all rights to regular unemployment compensation 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 unemployment compensation benefits or extended benefits.
PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to covered individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment compensation 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 COVID-19.
- Your child or other person in the household for whom you are the primary caregiver is unable to 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.
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:
- 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
- As to such services, the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business.
I am a small business owner. Am I eligible for PUA?
Yes, you may be eligible for PUA if your primary source of income is from work you do for your own business or on your own farm.
I have never worked before. Am I eligible for PUA?
You may be eligible for PUA even if you have never worked before and
- you were scheduled to commence employment and do not have a job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; OR
- your job offer was rescinded because of COVID-19; OR
- you have become the breadwinner or major supporter for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
What documentation do I need to show I was employed or self-employed?
Acceptable documentation of proof of employment or self-employment can include, but is not limited to:
- copies of recent paycheck stubs
- bank receipts showing deposits
- billing notices provided to your customers
- recent advertisements for your business or services
- statements from recent customers
- current business licenses, ledgers, contracts, and invoices
- building leases.
What documentation do I need to show my previous income?
Acceptable documentation of wages can include but is not limited to:
- tax returns
- paycheck stubs
- bank receipts
- billing statements
How much will I receive in PUA benefits?
The amount of PUA benefits you will receive is based on your previous income reported. PUA benefits may not be more than the state's maximum weekly benefit rate for regular unemployment compensation, which is $424 in West Virginia. In West Virginia, the minimum PUA payment is $158.
All individuals collecting PUA will receive $600 per week from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), in addition to weekly benefits as calculated above. FPUC payments will begin the week ending April 4, 2020. The last week that FPUC is payable is the week ending July 25, 2020.
The PUA application isn't available yet, but I'm already unemployed. How far back can I request benefits?
When the PUA application is available, you may submit claims backdated to January 27, 2020, if you have been unemployed due to one of the COVID-19 related reasons that are PUA-eligible. If you are found eligible for PUA, you will receive compensation retroactive to January 27, 2020, or to the date when you became unemployed, whichever is more recent.
PUA provides benefits for up to 39 weeks for weeks of unemployment beginning on or after January 27, 2020. PUA payments will not be made for weeks of unemployment after December 31, 2020.
I already filed a "regular" unemployment compensation claim, but it looks like I'm eligible under PUA. What should I do?
If you believe you are eligible for PUA and have already filed an unemployment compensation claim, you may be denied from regular unemployment compensation. A denial from regular unemployment compensation will not affect your eligibility for PUA, which was created specifically for individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment compensation. You can file for PUA through the application created specifically for PUA claimants.Am I eligible for the extra $600 a week that people collecting unemployment compensation receive?
Yes, if you are eligible for PUA you are also eligible for $600 per week under the FPUC program. PUA provides benefits for up to 39 weeks for weeks of unemployment beginning on or after January 27, 2020. PUA payments will not be made for weeks of unemployment after December 31, 2020. No additional forms or applications are required for FPUC. The $600 per week additional payment will be automatically added to your PUA benefit ending the week of July 25, 2020.
I'm able to telework. Can I collect benefits under PUA?
No. If you are able to telework with pay or declined an option to telework for the same number of hours, you are not eligible for PUA.
My hours have been reduced. Can I collect benefits under PUA?
If you are working fewer hours due to COVID-19 and it has resulted in a loss in income, and you are not eligible for regular unemployment compensation, you may be eligible for PUA.
My employer remains open, but I am on paid leave. Should I file for PUA instead?
If you are receiving paid sick leave or other leave benefits, you are not eligible for PUA. If you exhaust your paid leave but are unable to work for one or more of the COVID-19 related reasons listed in the FAQ "What kind of documentation do I need for my PUA claim?," you may be eligible for regular unemployment compensation or PUA at that time.
Am I eligible for PUA if I had to quit my job because I tested positive for COVID-19 or was being treated by a medical professional for COVID-19 symptoms and could not telework or otherwise continue work activities?
Yes, you may be eligible for PUA in this situation.
Am I eligible for PUA if I had to quit my job because I came in direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been diagnosed by a medical professional as having COVID-19, and, on the advice of a qualified medical health professional I was required to resign from my job in order to quarantine?
Yes, you may be eligible for PUA in this situation.
I work in the gig economy. Am I eligible for PUA?
Yes, gig workers with reportable income may be eligible if:
- You are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- The COVID-19 pandemic has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities and you have had to suspend your work.
I am self-employed and my income and hours have declined greatly because of COVID-19. Am I eligible for PUA?
Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, or gig workers who are unable to work because of COVID-19 and have had to suspend their work may be eligible for PUA.
I am self-employed. While I was working, I was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Am I eligible for PUA?
Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and gig workers who are unable to work because of COVID-19 may be eligible for PUA. To learn more about eligibility requirements for PUA, please refer to the FAQ "How do I know if I am eligible for PUA?"
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act creates a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
PEUC provides up to 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to individuals who previously collected state or federal unemployment compensation but exhausted those benefits.
Who is eligible for PEUC?
You are eligible for PEUC if:
- You exhausted your regular state or federal benefits after July 1, 2019
- You are not currently eligible for state or federal unemployment benefits; and
- You are able and available to work and actively seeking work, except in instances where COVID-19 has made it not possible, including illness, quarantine, or "stay at home" orders.
How do I know if I exhausted my benefits?
You have exhausted your benefits when:
- You are not eligible for regular unemployment compensation benefits because you have received the maximum amount of these benefits available to you based on your employment or wages during your base period; OR
- Your benefit year ended on or after July 1, 2019.
How do I file for PEUC?
If you currently have an open unemployment compensation claim, there is nothing for you to do other than continue filing your bi-weekly claim. You cannot apply for any unemployment compensation programs in advance, so you must wait for the week after your benefits are exhausted to apply for PEUC.
If you have exhausted the maximum amount of regular unemployment compensation available to you and are unable to file a new claim until your current benefit year expires, you will be eligible for up to 13 weeks of additional benefits through the PEUC program. You will receive a notice with instructions on how to apply.
If you remain totally or partially unemployed when your benefit year ends, you must file a new application for regular unemployment compensation before your PEUC application can be considered. Instructions to apply for PEUC online will be posted at uc.workforcewv.org.
How much is the PEUC weekly benefit amount?
Your PEUC weekly benefit amount is the same as your regular unemployment compensation weekly benefit rate. Your weekly benefit rate is based on your reported earnings during the base year (the first four of the last five completed quarters).
I heard everyone collecting unemployment compensation benefits gets an extra $600 a week. Will I get that through PEUC?
Yes. All individuals collecting any type of UC, including PEUC, will receive $600 per week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, in addition to their weekly benefits as calculated. FPUC payments began the week ending April 4, 2020 and will end July 25, 2020. These payments will be backdated for eligible individuals.
I filed a new unemployment compensation claim recently. Am I eligible for PEUC?
In general, individuals collecting regular unemployment compensation are eligible for 26 weeks of benefits. If you are still unemployed after 26 weeks, you may be eligible for up to 13 additional weeks of benefits through PEUC.
I exhausted my benefits before July 1, 2019 and have not worked since then. Am I eligible for PEUC?
No. However, depending on when you last reported income, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits to those individuals who do not have enough wages in their base year to file a regular unemployment compensation claim. Please visit our PUA FAQs to find out more.
I exhausted my benefits on or after July 1, 2019 and have not worked since then. Am I eligible for PEUC?
You may be eligible for 13 weeks of PEUC. Depending on when you last reported income, you may also be eligible for PUA after your PEUC eligibility ends. PUA provides benefits to those individuals who do not have enough wages in their base year to file a regular unemployment compensation claim. Please visit our PUA FAQs to find out more.I was collecting unemployment after July 1, 2019, but then went back to work. Now I am laid-off again. How many weeks of unemployment compensation am I eligible for?
The PEUC program provides eligible individuals with up to 13 additional weeks of benefits when you have exhausted your regular unemployment compensation. You may be eligible for at least 39 total weeks of benefits.
How long will PEUC be available?
PEUC is available beginning the week ending April 4, 2020 through the end of the year. However, because West Virginia considers a week of unemployment to end on a Saturday, the last week that PEUC may be paid in the commonwealth is the week ending December 26, 2020.