Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Last updated: 11/20/2020 | Español | COVID-19 Main Page | COVID-19 FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Refer to our Pandemic Unemployment Assistance FAQs for more information on the program.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is one of the federal CARES Act provisions that helps unemployed Californians who are not usually eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. This includes business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with a limited work history who are out of business or have significantly reduced their services as a direct result of the pandemic.

This program includes up to 46 weeks of benefits from February 2, 2020, through December 26, 2020, depending on when you were directly affected by COVID-19. PUA launched with up to 39 weeks of benefits and an extra seven weeks was added later.

PUA benefits are available if you don’t qualify for regular Unemployment Insurance benefits. This includes:

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

If you only received a 1099 tax form last year, you are most likely eligible for PUA.

You must also meet one of the following conditions:

Health Reasons

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • You cannot work because your healthcare provider told you to self-quarantine.
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are caring for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You cannot work because you are caring for a dependent whose school or care facility has closed due to COVID-19.
  • You became the main income provider due to a COVID-19 death in your household.

Work Reasons

  • You quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Your workplace is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You had a definite date to begin work, but the job is no longer available, or you could not reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You are unable to travel to your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You are unemployed, partially employed, or unable to work because COVID-19 has forced you to stop working.

How to File a Claim

The fastest way to apply for benefits is through UI OnlineSM, just as you would for regular UI benefits. You can also apply for PUA by phone, mail, or fax.

If you qualify for regular UI, do not file a PUA claim at this time. If you filed for UI and received a notice that you have $0 in benefits available, visit PUA FAQs for what to do next.

After you file, refer to our step-by-step claims process. You’ll learn what to expect and the actions you need to take during your claim to receive benefit payments.

Proof of Citizenship

You must be authorized to work in the US to receive benefits. If you are not a US citizen, have information from your employment authorization ready. You can only be paid PUA benefits for the weeks you were legally allowed to work in the US.

Employment History

Your employment history affects the amount of benefits you receive each week. Giving us correct information helps you get the correct benefit amount sooner. You will need:

  • Employment history from the last 18 months:
    • The name of the company or companies as they appear on your paycheck.
    • Dates of employment.
    • Hours worked per week.
    • Total gross wages and hourly rate of pay. If you are self-employed or an independent contractor, you will need your net income (total after taxes).
    • The reason you are no longer working.
  • Specific information from your last employer or company:
    • Mailing address and phone number.
    • Supervisor’s name. If you are self-employed, a business owner, or an independent contractor, list yourself as your last employer.
    • Total gross wages for the last week you worked. If you are self-employed or an independent contractor, you will need your net income (total after taxes).
    • The reason for your change in employment.

Federal and Military Documents

  • If you are a former federal employee, have your Notice to Federal Employees About Unemployment Insurance (Standard Form 8) ready.
  • If you served in the military in the last 18 months, have your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD 214) ready.

Benefit Payments


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’re still unemployed and eligible to continue receiving payments.

Note: With a PUA claim, you can only certify online or by mail. 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 an EDD Debit CardSM. 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.

Reporting Wages

When you certify for benefits, report your gross (total) earnings. How you report your income is different for 1099 wages (self-employment income) and 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.

Payment Phases

To make benefits available as quickly as possible, payments will be issued in phases. If you qualify for PUA, these are 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.

Based on your claim date, you can get PUA benefits for up to a total of 46 weeks (minus any regular UI and FED-ED benefits you received beginning February 2, 2020).

Payment Increases

We are recalculating benefit payments based on your total income for 2019. If you earned more than $17,368 last year, we will automatically increase your weekly benefit payments (currently $167). You must be able to provide documentation to prove your income for 2019.

If you qualify, you will receive a notice in the mail 5-7 days after we make the benefit adjustment. You will be back paid to make up the difference from the start of your PUA claim.

The maximum for PUA benefits is $450 per week. To qualify, your net self-employment income for 2019 needs to be more than $46,696. If you are not able to provide proof of income, we may decrease your payments. If so, you will have to repay the difference for any weeks you were paid over $167.

Note: The additional $600 will be added to each PUA weekly benefit amount as part of the federal CARES Act for claims between March 29 and July 25. We cannot pay the extra $600 for any weeks after July 25, 2020. Any unemployment benefits through July 25 will still be eligible for the extra $600, even if you are paid later. PUA benefits end December 31, 2020, but the last full week of benefits will end December 26, 2020.

Your Claim Date

The start date of your claim will be the Sunday of the week you applied for unemployment. You can request to backdate your claim date to the week you became unemployed due to COVID-19. If approved, benefits will be back paid based on your last day of work. February 2, 2020, is the earliest start date for a PUA claim. To change you claim:

  • Write what needs to be corrected on your Notice of Award and mail it to the EDD address on the notice.
  • Visit Ask EDD to request to backdate your claim if you think it has the wrong start date. Select Unemployment Insurance Benefits, then Claim Questions, then Backdate the Effective Date of my UI Claim Due to COVID-19.
  • In your UI Online account, select Contact Us to request a change.
  • Call the UI Customer Service line at 1-800-300-5616, available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Pacific time), seven days a week , except state holidays.

Additional Resources