COVID-19 UPDATE: Because the coronavirus pandemic has left so many Americans jobless, the federal government has given states more flexibility in granting unemployment benefits. You’ll need to apply for these benefits through your state’s unemployment insurance program, but if you have questions about whether you’re eligible for benefits read our COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits and Insurance FAQ. Also, before submitting a claim in Pennsylvania, be sure to check out Pennsylvania’s claimant handbook.
Pennsylvania Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility
Unemployment compensation in Pennsylvania is administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Office of Unemployment Compensation. Pennsylvania unemployment insurance provides temporary wage replacement income for workers who qualify for benefits as well as job training and employment education services.
If you’ve lost your job, you need to apply for Pennsylvania unemployment as soon as possible.
1. Gather necessary documents and information before trying to file a claim to save yourself a headache:
- Social Security number
- Home address and mailing address
- Telephone number and valid email address
- Alien registration number if you’re not a US citizen
- DD Form 214, Member 4, if you were on active duty in the US military in the past 18 months
- Standard Form 8 and Standard Form 50If you worked for the federal government in the past 18 months
- Your employment information for the past 18 months, including all contact information, dates worked, and reasons for your dismissal
- Gross earnings during your last week of employment
- Amount of severance pay, if any
- Other states where you have worked in the past 18 months
- Direct deposit information if you choose that option for payments (bank name, address, and account and routing number)
2. You can file your initial claim in person, over the phone, or through the Pennsylvania unemployment website.
3. If you meet Pennsylvania unemployment qualifications, you’ll become eligible to receive benefits. These requirements include having earned enough wages during your Base Period and having lost your job for approved reasons. Your benefit amount may be as high as $572 per week.
- Notice: Pennsylvania has temporarily waived the CareerLink registration and job search requirements due to COVID-19.
5. After approval, you’re eligible to claim up to 26 weeks of Pennsylvania unemployment benefits as long as you are searching for work and submitting biweekly proof that you are applying and interviewing for at least two new jobs per week.
6. If you have not found work before your benefits run out, you may file for a Pennsylvania unemployment extension. Each extension is granted on a case-by-case basis, and there is no guarantee you will continue receiving compensation.
There are several ways you can file an unemployment claim:
Online: You can file your unemployment application online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
After your initial application you’ll have to file a biweekly unemployment claim to certify for your benefits. You can do this online on Sunday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. or Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Make sure you get a confirmation page that your claim has been accepted before you exit the system, otherwise you may have to re-file your claim again.
Telephone: You can also file your initial unemployment claim by phone at 888-313-7284.
To certify your biweekly claims, use the automated Pennsylvania Teleclaims (PAT) system on Sunday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. or Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. For biweekly claims, call either of these Pennsylvania unemployment numbers:
If you get a busy signal, you’ll need to hang up and call again.
The PAT system will ask you a series of questions about your eligibility, and you will need to answer “yes” or “no” using your telephone keypad. When you’re done, PAT will advise you that your claim has been accepted. Do not hang up until you hear this confirmation, otherwise you will need to call back and file again.
Mail: Filing by mail is allowed only in certain limited circumstances. Fill out a paper application and send it to the address listed on the form.
TTY: TTY users can file using the Pennsylvania unemployment department’s TTY services 24 hours a day, Sunday through Friday. You must first get filing instructions from the department’s TTY information. You can also contact an Unemployment Compensation center or a local PA CareerLink office.
To qualify for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation benefits, you must meet these core requirements.
You meet financial eligibility. After you file an initial Pennsylvania unemployment claim for benefits, the department will make a determination regarding your financial eligibility. You must have worked enough weeks and earned enough wages during your base period to qualify for benefits. After a review, the department will send you a Notice of Financial Determination informing you if you’re eligible for unemployment or not and the amount of compensation you may receive.
You lost your job or work hours for approved reasons. To meet Pennsylvania unemployment requirements, you must be unemployed or working reduced hours through no fault of your own. This is known as a qualifying separation. Generally, you’re eligible if you have been laid off from your job due to a lack of work or other similar reason. You will not be eligible for benefits if you voluntarily quit your job, you were let go for misconduct, you failed to submit and/or pass a drug or alcohol test, or you took part in a work strike. However, you may be eligible for benefits if you’re a victim of a lockout.
Under some circumstances, you can receive unemployment compensation if you’re still working part-time. Certain conditions and restrictions will apply.
You continue to maintain unemployment eligibility each week. You must meet a defined set of criteria to maintain Pennsylvania unemployment benefit eligibility and collect benefits each week you’re unemployed. These requirements include being ready, willing, and available to return to work, either at a new job or at your old job.
You could be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania if you fall into certain categories:
- You’re not physically capable of working.
- You decide to take a vacation outside of your labor market.
- You leave the country.
- You do not have daycare for your children.
- You do not have transportation to get to or from your job.
- You are in jail or prison.
You file a claim for each calendar week. In most cases in Pennsylvania, you’ll file for two weeks at a time, also known as a biweekly claim. Even though you’ll file the two weeks at the same time, you’ll certify each week separately. In all cases, weeks begin on Sunday and end the following Saturday.
When you work through Pennsylvania unemployment claim filing for subsequent weeks, you will need the personal identification number (PIN) that you will create the first time you filed for benefits. You will also need the amount of any gross earnings you made for all work performed during the week you’re claiming. If you did not work at all, then this amount will be zero. If you earned any holiday or vacation pay for the week, you will need to report that as well.
You will file your Pennsylvania unemployment weekly claims during the week immediately following the two weeks you’re claiming. This can be done Sunday through Friday. When you receive your initial Notice of Financial Determination, it will give you instructions on when to file your first biweekly claim.
If you forget a Pennsylvania unemployment claim filing or do not file in a timely manner for any reason, you could be denied benefits and your claim could go “inactive.” If that happens, you’ll need to reactivate your Pennsylvania unemployment by contacting a Office of Unemployment Compensation service center.
You register for the Pennsylvania CareerLink. Another key requirement for maintaining eligibility is that you must register for services through the Pennsylvania CareerLink within 30 days of filing an application for unemployment compensation benefits.
Heads up: Pennsylvania is temporarily waiving the CareerLink registration and job-search requirements due to COVID-19.
The PA CareerLink website will offer you a wide variety of reemployment resources that will assist you in finding a job as quickly as possible. You can access training and job industry information, sharpen your interview skills, get assistance if you’re disabled or a veteran, take skills assessments, find tips on preparing a resume, and several other related materials.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry also administers several other related programs to assist workers with benefits and reemployment services.
- The Unemployment Compensation For Federal Civilian Employees (UCFE) provides services for employees who earned wages in federal civilian employment. If this is the case, you may be eligible for benefits under the federal UCFE program.
- The Unemployment Compensation For Ex-Service Members (UCX) is a federal program that provides benefits to former eligible members of the Armed Forces and the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is available for people who have lost their job due to a major disaster that has been declared by the President of the United States. If you’re eligible for regular benefits, you must exhaust those before applying for DUA.
- If you lost your job because of Foreign Trade competition, you may be eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), including job retraining, job search and relocation aid, as well as weekly Trade Readjustment Allowance (TRA) benefits. Contact a UC service center, visit a local PA CareerLink, or go to the U.S. Department of Labor website.
How will I get paid?
You’ll be paid either through a debit card or by direct deposit into your bank account. You may switch from one form to another at any time. If you want to check a payment’s, you can log on to your benefit payment information page or call the PAT system at 888-255-4728 Sunday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. or Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Payment information is generally available the day after a payment has been made to you.
How to determine your weekly Pennsylvania Unemployment amount
The Pennsylvania unemployment rate—the Weekly Benefit Rate (WBR)—is determined based on wages you were paid during your base year. As part of your initial application process, you will need to determine what your total gross wages were during your base year, as well as how much you received during each calendar quarter. Your base year is the first four of the past five completed calendar quarters prior to the date you applied for benefits.
In addition, you must also satisfy a minimum number of credit weeks to be eligible as well. Credit weeks are the number of weeks in your base year that you earned $116 or more. You’re not eligible to receive benefits if you have fewer than 18 credit weeks in your base year.
All of your wages cannot be earned in one quarter, but your benefit is determined by the amount of wages in your highest quarter. To be eligible for benefits, at least 37% of your total wages must have been paid in quarters other than your highest quarter.
If you do not meet wage and credit week requirements because you were injured on the job, you can request that an alternate base year be used instead. The alternate base week is four completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the date of your work-related injury.
In general, your WBR will be about half of your full-time weekly wage up to the maximum on the UC Benefits Chart. You will be notified of the exact amount when you’re mailed a Notice of Financial Determination. If you have a spouse and dependent children, you may receive an additional $5 weekly for a dependent spouse and another $3 weekly for a dependent child.
Do I have to look for work while I receive unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania?
One of the key provisions for maintaining unemployment compensation eligibility is that you must conduct an active job search while you receive benefits. At a minimum, this includes applying for two jobs each week and conducting at least one other qualifying job search activity. You’re expected to begin your job search activities no later than the third week of your Benefit Year—the 52 week period that starts when you file an initial claim for benefits.
You can apply for jobs either in person, through electronic means (such as submitting an application over the internet or by email), by phone, or by submitting a job application to an employer in person. You cannot keep submitting an application to the same employer unless a different job has opened up or the original job hiring criteria have changed.
You should apply for jobs that match your skills, training, and experience, so that you have a reasonable expectation that you can perform the job. You’re allowed to limit your job search and applications to employment that offers wages similar to what you were making and are within a 45-minute commute of your home. If you can’t find jobs that meet these expectations, you’ll need to participate in other work search activities. Qualifying work search activities include the following:
- Attending a job fair
- Searching for jobs posted in JobGateway or on internet job banks
- Creating and posting a resumé in the JobGateway System or other resumé posting services
- Networking with former colleagues, mentors, or other industry professionals who may be able to assist your job search efforts
- Working with an employment agency or school placement service
- Taking a civil service test or a similar pre-employment skills test
- Participating in one or more activities offered through the Pennsylvania CareerLink system
You’ll get credit for a job application activity if you have a job interview instead. And if you apply for more than two jobs in a week, you won’t need to conduct a work search activity for that week.
What options do I have if I’m denied benefits?
In some cases, you may be denied benefits or granted an amount you disagree with. In these situations, Pennsylvania unemployment laws allow you to dispute the decision through an appeal process.
You can appeal the initial decision within 15 days after the mailing date of the determination. Instructions for an appeal will be included in the determination letter. In most cases, filing an appeal will result in a hearing in front of a referee within 30 days after you file your appeal. You must come prepared to present all of your evidence as to why you think the determination should be changed. Following the hearing, you will receive a decision from the referee within two weeks.
You can appeal a referee’s decision in front of the UC Board of Review within 15 days after the mailing date of the referee’s decision. To do so, follow the instructions contained in the referee’s decision letter.
If you’re still not satisfied with the outcome after appealing to the UC Board of Review, you can appeal that decision to the Commonwealth Court within 30 days after the mailing date on the UC Board of Review’s decision letter.
While you’re appealing at all levels, if you remain unemployed, you should still be filing a biweekly claim for benefits. If you do win your appeal, you will only be reimbursed for those weeks that you claimed.
More information about the Pennsylvania Unemployment Program
You can contact Pennsylvania Teleclaims for assistance in filing claims, getting benefits information, and related services:
PA CareerLink: This website provides a variety of reemployment services.
Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Service Centers
UC service centers accept calls every weekday:
- Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
- Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Videophone service for ASL users is available on Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. at 714-704-8474.
TTY message services for filing Pennsylvania unemployment weekly claims are available 24 hours a day, Sunday through Friday at 888-334-4046.
Duquesne UC Service Center
14 North Linden Street
Duquesne, PA 15110-1067
Erie UC Service Center
1316 State Street
Erie, PA 16501-1978
Indiana UC Service Center
630 Kolter Drive
Indiana, PA 15701-3570
Scranton UC Service Center
30 Stauffer Industrial Park
Taylor, PA 18517-9625