Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Last updated: 11/18/2021 | Español | COVID-19 Main Page | COVID-19 FAQs

Important Announcement

Important: If you collected PUA benefits, new federal requirements require you to respond to our requests and may impact your eligibility for those benefits, or could make you eligible for benefits previously denied. You will receive a message in your UI OnlineSM account and a text message if a new requirement applies to you.

  • Self-employment and employment documentation is required to prove you were, or planned to be, self-employed or employed at some point during the calendar year before and up to the start of your PUA claim.
  • PUA reassessment is available if you were previously denied PUA benefits for one or more weeks.

PUA benefits ended September 4, 2021. The last day you could apply for a PUA claim was October 6, 2021, for weeks of unemployment before September 4. For more information about the ending of federal unemployment benefit programs, visit Federal Provisions for Unemployment.

PUA was part of the federal assistance that helped unemployed Californians who were not usually eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits. PUA included up to 86 weeks of benefits, between February 2, 2020 and September 4, 2021. The date you could start collecting these benefits depended on when you were directly affected by COVID-19 and the date you filed your PUA claim.

Eligibility

PUA benefits were available if you did not qualify for regular unemployment benefits and were out of business or had significantly reduced your services as a direct result of the pandemic. The following were eligible for PUA:

  • Business owners.
  • Self-employed workers.
  • Independent contractors.
  • People with a limited work history.
  • People who had used all their regular UI benefits as well as any extended benefits.
  • People who were serving false statement penalty weeks on their regular UI claim.

You must also have been unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to at least one of the following reasons to be eligible for PUA:

  • My place of employment was closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • I had been diagnosed with COVID-19 or was experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • I had to quit my job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • I was unable to reach my place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of COVID-19. (This may apply if you could not reach your workplace because of a state, county, or city order restricting travel due to COVID-19, such as a stay-home or shelter-in-place order.)
  • I was unable to reach my place of employment because I was advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  • A child or other person in my household for whom I am the primary caregiver was unable to attend school or another facility that was closed as a direct result of COVID-19 and the school or facility care was required for me to work.
  • I was self-employed and experienced a significant reduction of services because of COVID-19
  • A member of my household had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • I was providing care for a family member or a member of my household who was diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • I was scheduled to start employment and did not have a job or was unable to reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • I had become the breadwinner or major financial support for my household because the head of the household had died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • I was denied continued unemployment benefits because I either refused to return to work or accept an offer of work at a worksite that was not in compliance with local, state, or national COVID-19 health and safety standards, such as facial mask wearing, physical distancing, or access to protective equipment consistent with public health guidelines.
  • I provided services to an educational institution or educational service agency and was unemployed or partially unemployed because of volatility in the work schedule that was directly caused by COVID-19, such as changes in schedules and partial closures.
  • I was an employee and my hours had been reduced or I was laid off as a direct result of COVID-19.

Self-Employment and Employment Documentation

Federal rules require that you provide documentation to prove you were, or planned to be, self-employed or employed at some point during the calendar year before and up to the start of your PUA claim.

For example:

  • If your claim started in December 2020, you will need to provide documentation for some time between January 2019 and December 2020.
  • If your claim started in February 2021, you will need to provide documentation for some time between January 2020 and February 2021.

Important: You must submit proof of employment or self-employment even though PUA benefits have ended in order to avoid the potential of having to repay benefits received.

If we sent a request to your UI Online account or a Verify Your Employment Status for Your Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Claim (DE 6316SEES) by mail, you are required to provide documentation. You will receive a request if either:

  • Your PUA claim was filed (processed by the EDD) on or after January 31, 2021. You will have 21 days to submit documentation.
  • Your PUA claim was filed (processed by the EDD) before January 31, 2021, and you received a benefit payment after December 27, 2020. You will have 90 days to submit documentation.

Your deadline to submit documents will be on your UI Online homepage.

If you need more time, log in to UI Online and select Request More Time in the Upload Employment Document section on the homepage.

You must submit at least one form of documents from the sections below that best applies to you. This list is not comprehensive, and other records or documents may be used as proof.

Documentation does not need to cover the entire period when you were working. Providing more than one document could help support review of your proof of employment.

Self-employment

  • State or federal employer identification numbers
  • Business licenses
  • Tax returns
  • Business receipts or invoices
  • Signed statements or affidavits (does not require a notary) verifying your self-employment
  • Contracts or agreements
  • Bank statements from a business account that show claimants self-employment

Employment

  • Paycheck stubs
  • Earnings and leave statements
  • W-2 forms

Planned to begin self-employment

  • Business licenses
  • State or federal employer identification numbers
  • Written business plans
  • Lease agreements

Planned to begin employment

  • Letters offering employment
  • Statement or affidavits (with the employer’s name and contact information) verifying an offer of employment

Other

  • Documentation or signed affidavits verifying your attachment to organizations such as the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or educational or religious organizations.

If you already submitted income documentation to us, it may be used to prove your employment or self-employment. But, if we sent you a Verify Your Employment Status for Your Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Claim (DE 6316SEES) by mail or to your UI Online account, you must submit the requested documents by the due date.

If you don’t submit the required documentation that proves you were employed, self-employed, or planning to be employed or self-employed during the calendar year before and up to the start of your claim, you may have to repay any benefits determined to be an overpayment. An overpayment is when you receive benefits you are not eligible for. A potential overpayment could be all benefits you received, including the PUA benefits and the additional $300 Pandemic Additional Compensation added to your benefits each week. We will add a 30% penalty if we determine that you intentionally gave false information or withheld information to receive benefits.

For more information, visit Overpayment and Penalties.

If your documents meet federal requirements, we will send you a notice confirming your eligibility.

If you are denied benefits, we will send you a Notice of Determination for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (DE 8598PUA-D) with appeal information. You may also receive a Notice of Potential Overpayment (DE 1447) or a Notice of Overpayment (DE 1444), and information on waivers. You may have to pay back the PUA benefits received if you do not qualify for a waiver. You may also be subject to penalties if you intentionally provided false information.

PUA Reassessment

Recent federal guidance added three new reasons and updated the existing reasons unemployed Californians can use to explain why they were out of work during the COVID-19 public health emergency. If you were previously denied benefits for one or more weeks under the PUA program, you will receive a message in your UI Online account with instructions on how to complete the PUA Reassessment.

The three new reasons are:

  • You were an employee and your hours were reduced or you were laid off as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. If you were previously denied benefits for one or more weeks under the PUA program, you will receive a message in your UI Online account with instructions on how to complete the PUA Reassessment.
  • You were denied unemployment benefits because you refused to return to work or accept an offer of work at a worksite that was not in compliance with COVID-19 safety standards.
  • You were a school employee and were fully or partially unemployed because of changes in your usual work schedule directly caused by COVID-19.

If you were previously denied benefits for one or more weeks under the PUA program, you will receive a message in your UI Online account with instructions on how to complete the PUA Reassessment. Completing this reassessment will allow us to determine your eligibility for PUA benefits with the new information.

Go to the PUA Reassessment section on the UI Online homepage to review the complete list of federally approved COVID-19 reasons and select any that apply to you.

You will also be asked to confirm the date your business, employment, or self-employment was first interrupted as a direct result of COVID-19.

After completing the reassessment, if we determine you meet PUA requirements under any of the COVID-19 reasons, we will send you an Additional Instructions (DE 238) explaining that you now meet PUA requirements, and you will be paid benefits for the weeks that were previously denied. If we determine you are still not eligible for PUA benefits, you will receive a DE 238 referring you to your initial Notice of Determination for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (DE 8598PUA-D), or a new DE 8598PUA-D explaining why you do not meet PUA requirements and information on your right to appeal the EDD’s decision.

Note: If you do not have a UI Online account, monitor your mail for additional information.

Benefit Payments

Certification

After your account is set up, you must “certify” for your benefit payments. Certifying is answering basic questions every two weeks that tells us you were unemployed and eligible to receive payments.

Note: With a PUA claim, you can only certify online or by mail for weeks of unemployment before September 4, 2021. You cannot use EDD Tele-CertSM to certify.

Usually, it will take about a week after you certify before you receive your first benefit payment. With the large amount of claims we are processing, there may be delays. If you are eligible, you may get your first PUA payment in about two days if you already have a Debit Card from the EDD. New debit cards and checks are mailed within four to seven days. Once you activate the card, you can track, use, and transfer your benefit payments.

When you certify for benefit payments every two weeks, report your gross (total) earnings. How you report your income is different for self-employment income (1099 wages) and wages paid by an employer (W-2 wages):

  • 1099 wages: If you are a self-employed worker, independent contractor, or business owner, report your income in the weeks you actually received payment, no matter when you performed the service. If you performed services, but didn’t receive income that week, then you do not need to report any income for that week.
  • W-2 wages: If you are not self-employed, report your income for the week you worked, not when you were paid.

Note: Sales tax is not considered income and does not need to be reported to the EDD.

Payments were issued in phases. If you qualified for PUA, these were the minimum payments based on your claim’s start date:

Phase 1: February 2 to March 28, 2020

$167 per week for each week you were unemployed due to COVID-19.

Phase 2: March 29 to July 25, 2020

$167 plus $600 per week for each week you are unemployed due to COVID-19.

Phase 3: July 26 to December 26, 2020

$167 per week, for each week that you are unemployed due to COVID-19.

Phase 4: From December 27, 2020 to the end of the program.

$167 plus $300 per week for each week you are unemployed due to COVID-19.

You may have qualified for PUA benefits for up to a total of 86 weeks (minus any regular unemployment and FED-ED benefits you received).

If you earned more than $17,368 in 2019, we would have contacted you about increasing your weekly benefit amount. You must be able to provide documentation to prove your income.

The maximum for PUA benefits was $450 per week. To qualify, your net self-employment income for 2019 needs to have been more than $46,696. If you are not able to provide proof of income, we will not increase your payments.

Note: The additional $300 was added each week as part of the continued federal assistance for claims between December 27, 2020, and September 4, 2021.

Your Claim Date

Your claim start date was the Sunday of the week you applied for unemployment. For PUA applications received on or after December 27, 2020, the earliest start date for a claim was December 6, 2020.

Additional Resources