Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program now available for Virginians who don’t qualify for traditional benefits

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RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Financial relief is coming for workers in Virginia who have lost their livelihood as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but who didn’t originally qualify for unemployment.

The CARES Act passed in March included a provision to provide financial benefits for American workers who did not previously qualify for unemployment insurance. These workers include people who are self-employed, gig workers, and people working for nonprofits, among others.

The Virginia Employment Commission has been working to integrate this new law into its existing unemployment claims process. Recently, the VEC launched the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program on its website, allowing those who qualify for CARES Act benefits to apply for unemployment insurance.

Workers must take several steps to apply for PUA.

First, you must apply for traditional unemployment insurance through the VEC. 10 On Your Side has created a how-to guide for applying for unemployment insurance, which can be found here.

Although you may not qualify under traditional unemployment, the VEC must verify your eligibility before processing your PUA benefits application.

Next, you will receive a “monetary determination” from the VEC. The monetary determination will indicate that you do not qualify for unemployment benefits. Don’t worry — this is just a decision that states you do not qualify for traditional unemployment insurance.

The monetary determination will give you the option to appeal. You do not need to appeal unless you think you should qualify under the traditional unemployment program.

If you don’t qualify for traditional unemployment, the VEC will contact you via text or a phone call with information on how to apply for PUA.

Next, you will need to fill out a PUA application, which can be found here. You will receive a second monetary determination that will notify you of your eligibility under the PUA and what benefits you qualify for. The VEC will begin making payments about two weeks after the PUA application is accepted. The agency may require additional documentation to validate your claim; however, the VEC is not currently requiring you to submit proof of earnings, such as a 1099 or tax filing at this time.

Those who qualify for PUA must file a claim for their benefits weekly, just like people who qualify for traditional unemployment.

The CARES Act also provided additional unemployment benefits to those who qualify under traditional insurance or the PUA program. Under the CARES Act, unemployment benefits increased by $600. Some who qualify for traditional unemployment benefits have already received these additional financial benefits. For those who haven’t received them yet, payments will be retroactive, according to the VEC.

The VEC has also created a “frequently asked questions” page. Learn more about that here.

Financial relief cannot come soon enough for many Americans. Since the beginning of March, more than 20 million Americans have filed initial claims for unemployment benefits. More than 418,000 of those people work in Virginia.

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