Pennsylvania Unemployment: Eligibility and Benefits

FT Contributor  | 

Unemployment Insurance is a federal program that provides financial compensation for workers who are currently unemployed and eligible for unemployment benefits. The program is administered at a state level and in Pennsylvania, it’s run by the Office of Unemployment Compensation.

If you’re out of work through no fault of your own and you weren’t financially prepared for unemployment, you may qualify to receive compensation through the state government while you’re looking for work. To receive weekly benefits, you must apply for the program and prove you’re actively looking for work and ready and able to take an available position. Learning about the details of the program in Pennsylvania, such as the application process and eligibility requirements, will make it easier for you to apply for benefits.

PA Unemployment Eligibility Requirements

To receive unemployment benefits, you must meet the program’s eligibility requirements, which are related to your previous position. To qualify for benefits, you need to prove you earned money throughout your base year, or the year before you file for benefits.

You must also be able to prove that you earned at least $116 per week for at least 18 weeks within your base year. This shows that your job was a financial asset and that you truly need financial assistance without it.

In addition to these financial eligibility requirements, you’ll provide information on the reason you lost your job. You must have lost your job by no fault of your own through one of the following eligible reasons:

  • You were laid off by your employer.
  • Your working hours were decreased drastically.
  • Your position was eliminated.
  • You were fired for a reason that doesn’t involve misconduct.
  • You were forced to voluntarily quit your job due to a compelling and necessary reason, such as your health.

You must be able and available for employment and ready to go back to work. To maintain your eligibility for unemployment benefits, you must provide documentation that proves you’re searching for a new job each week. If you turn down a suitable employment opportunity or begin earning income at a full-time job, you’re no longer eligible to receive benefits.

PA Unemployment Benefits

For claimants who are eligible to receive benefits, the Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation provides financial assistance. Benefits are provided weekly and beneficiaries may choose whether to receive these benefits by direct deposit or debit card.

To sign up for direct deposit, choose this option when filing your unemployment claim. You’re required to provide your bank account information and every week that you’re eligible for benefits and you file a claim, your weekly benefit amount is deposited into your account.

If you don’t provide your bank account information, you’re mailed a debit card. Activate the card by choosing a PIN to associate with it. Your weekly benefits are loaded onto the card if you’re eligible and file weekly claims. You use the benefits as you would any other debit card wherever this payment method is accepted.

How Much Does Unemployment Pay?

Your weekly benefit rate is the compensation you’ll receive in benefits each week if you don’t need to claim any deductions. The compensation you earned in your base year is used to figure out your weekly benefit rate. The quarter of the year in which you earned the most and the weekly wage you earned also figure into the calculation. Your weekly benefit rate is about half of your weekly wage.

If you have dependents and you provided their information on your unemployment application, you may be eligible for an additional $5 per week per dependent spouse and $3 per dependent child. If you earned wages working a part-time job, you must claim your earnings. Your weekly benefit rate is reduced by the amount of compensation you earned.

How to Apply for Unemployment in PA

You should file your initial unemployment claim on the Sunday through Saturday of the week after you’re unemployed or your hours have been reduced dramatically. If you attempt to file your claim earlier than this, it may be denied. In Pennsylvania, you can file your initial unemployment claim online, by phone, or by mail. A video phone service is also available for claimants who use American Sign Language (ASL).

To file an unemployment claim online, visit PA Department of Labor and Industry online system. Create an online account and a PIN associated with your account. The system asks you for information about yourself, your willingness to find a job, and your previous employer. Your claim hasn’t been filed until you submit it and receive a confirmation number.

To file by phone, call the PA Office of Unemployment Compensation at 1(888) 313-7284 and speak with a representative to complete the initial claim process. If you prefer to file by mail, complete a paper unemployment benefits application and mail it along with any supporting documentation to:

Indiana UC Service Center
630 Kolter Drive
Indiana, PA 15701-3570.

For claimants who use ASL, the video phone service is available on Wednesdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call (717) 704-8474 and answer the representative’s questions to complete the initial claim process.

Materials Needed to File an Unemployment Claim

No matter which method you choose to use to file your initial unemployment claim, you’ll be asked to provide specific information or documentation. Before attempting to file your claim and determine your eligibility to receive income while you’re unemployed, gather the following:

  • Your Social Security number.
  • Your contact information, including your mailing address and phone number.
  • Your Alien Registration Number if you’re not a U.S. citizen.
  • The name and contact information for your past employers for the last 18 months.
  • The dates you worked for your last employers.
  • Your earnings for the past 18 months and the schedules you worked.
  • Your bank account information, if you choose direct deposit.

If your past 18 months of employment included military service, you’re also required to send in a copy of your DD Form 214, Member 4. If you worked for the federal government in the past 18 months, you must submit a Standard Form 8 or Standard Form 50.

For More Information on Filing for Unemployment in PA

For assistance with filing an initial online claim, use the online interactive assistant. If you’ve already filed a claim, you can check the status of your claim using the online system. You must log in to your account and provide your PIN to check your claim’s status.

It’s important to be financially prepared for life emergencies, such as unexpected unemployment. However, it’s hard to be ready for a prolonged period of unemployment, no matter how much money you have saved. If you’re eligible for Pennsylvania unemployment benefits, you can file a claim and receive financial assistance while you look for suitable employment.


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