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Unemployment Compensation (UC)

The unemployment compensation system is designed to ease the transition period from one job to another when a worker loses a job through "no fault of his/her own." Workers and their employers pay taxes into the unemployment compensation system to support unemployment benefits.

Eligibility

*The best way to find out if you are eligible is to apply.*

After filing an application for UC benefits, there are three basic steps to determining eligibility for unemployment compensation.

  1. Financial Eligibility The first step is determining whether you are eligible financially. In other words, did you earn sufficient wages from an employer covered by PA UC Law? Certain types of employment are exempt. After you file, you will receive a notice of financial determination indicating whether you are financially eligible.

  2. Benefit Eligibility If your wages make you financially eligible, the second step involves the nature of your job loss, or separation. In other words, are you out of work through no fault of your own? This decision is based on the information you supply when you file for benefits, and information collected from your former employer.

  3. Maintaining Eligibility and Requalifying for Benefits The third qualifier to receiving UC benefits involves meeting various tests on a week-to-week basis. For example, you must be able and available to accept suitable work, not refuse work when offered without good cause and participate in reemployment services if required.

 

Other important eligibility considerations.

Reasonable Assurance for School Employees: There are special eligibility rules for employees of schools and other educational service agencies.Overpayment of Benefits Receiving UC benefits to which you are not entitled may result in reducing or removing future benefit entitlement until repaid.

A person who has recently been separated from his or her employment due to layoff will be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits if they have sufficient earnings. Workers who are fired or who quit may be eligible as well.

  1. Fired - A person who has been fired should be eligible for UC unless they were fired for "willful misconduct." This means that the employee knowingly did something against the company's best interests or violated a rule or policy. Incompetence, personality conflicts, and sickness are NOT considered willful misconduct and should not disqualify a person from UC. Generally a worker must have been warned about violations and continued to commit them for an offense to be ruled willful misconduct.
    Quit - To receive UC after quitting a job a worker must prove that s/he had no other choice but to quit their job. S/he must have a "necessitous and compelling reason" for quitting. Health reasons are the best reasons to quit and still be able to collect. A claimant must also show that s/he made all reasonable efforts to maintain the employment. These efforts include speaking with a supervisor or human resources personnel in an attempt to rectify whatever situation forced the resignation. Proving eligibility for UC after quitting is fairly rigorous. You must show that it was necessary for you to quit and you acted as a reasonable person in trying to maintain your employment.

  2. Able and Available - Remember, however, that a person must be able and available for work full time at the time that s/he collects UC. For instance, if you become ill and cannot work at any job at all, you are not eligible to collect UC for the weeks you are ill. However, you can be limited to light duty and still be eligible. You do not have to be able to do the job that you stopped working- just be able to do some kind of work.

  3. Earnings - A person's financial eligibility depends upon his/her earnings during the first four of the last five completed quarters. This is your "base year". It does not include the current quarter in which you are applying or the previous quarter. The chart on page 8 will give the months included in your base year, depending on the month in which you apply. This base year system does not count your most recent earnings, so if you are found financially ineligible you should re-apply in the next quarter, when additional earnings would be counted. The minimum earnings requirements are as follows:

    1. at least $800 in the highest quarter of your base year
    2. at least $1320 in total wages for your base year
    3. a minimum of 16 weeks of earnings over $50 in your base year (this doesn't include the current or previous quarter)
    4. sufficient wages in your total year relative to your wages in your highest quarter, know as qualifying wages.

 


 

 

Applying

To file online, Click Here.

If you have worked during the past 18 months and you are unemployed or had your hours reduced, you need to call the Unemployment Compensation Service Center or go online to file a new claim or reopen a claim.  On October 2, 2000 all Unemployment Compensation offices in the Philadelphia area were closed.  Instead of going to an office, you have to call 215-856-6990 or 1-888-313-7284 Monday-Friday (7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.) or Sunday (7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) to file a new claim or reopen an old claim. The TTY access number for the deaf and hard of hearing is 1-888-334-4046. Videophone service for individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) is available every Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m. at (717) 704-8474Spanish speaking claimants should call 1-877-888-8104.

After completing your application, you must register within 30 days for employment-search services online at: www.jobgateway.pa.gov. It is recommended that you do this immediately. Be sure that the registration is complete. If you do not complete the registration process within 30 days, your benefits will be stopped.

Additionally, if you do qualify for benefits, there is a weekly work search requirement, detailed here: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1471506&mode=2

The Service Center receives the most calls on Mondays, so you might get faster service if you call Tuesday through Friday, especially in the early mornings and late afternoons. All Unemployment Compensation matters are now handled over the phone or online. There are no offices to visit in person.

For better customer service, please use the following call-in days to access the statewide unemployment compensation services toll-free number. If your Social Security number ends in an even number, call on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday. If it ends in an odd number, call on Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

If you have access to the Internet, you can get general information on the Unemployment Compensation system, file your claim on-line, and download a claim application that you can complete and mail or fax back. The web site is www.uc.pa.gov.

When you call the Service Center, an automated message gives you several options to choose from including: filing a new claim or reopening an existing claim, speaking with a representative, and getting help with the teleclaims (PAT) system. If you do not have a touch-tone phone, you should stay on the line and a representative will pick up. The information that you should have ready is:

  • Social Security Number
  • Name and address of last employer
  • Your most recent pay stub
  • Date of last day of work
  • Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • Valid driver's license number if you have one

After you finish the call, you will be sent paperwork that you must complete and return to the Service Center. You can come to PUP and use the fax machine to fax this information to the Service Center. After they have received your information, you will receive three separate mailings: a Notice of Financial Determination, a Claim Confirmation Letter, and an Unemployment Compensation Handbook. You should receive this information within ten working days of filing your claim. The Notice of Financial Determination will list your wages earned over a certain time period, will tell you if you are financially eligible based on these wages, and will tell you how much money you will get each week. If you want to appeal the information listed, you will have fifteen days from the date of the Notice to appeal.

Once you have opened your claim, you must register with the Employment Office each week you are claiming for UC. You must register each week through one of three acceptable methods to receive your UC benefits:

  1. Send in a mail claim (if you are eligible)
  2. File online here
  3. Call the Pennsylvania Teleclaims (PAT) number for your area. Below is a list of PAT numbers for different areas:

 

Dialing AreaPAT Number
Toll Free (888) 255-4728
Philadelphia (215) 560-1978
Philadelphia (215) 560-2817
Lansdowne (610) 284-6882
Norristown (610) 270-1925
Bristol (215) 781-3250
Chester (610) 447-5359
Coatesville (610) 384-0807

  

Waiting For the First Check

  1. No one is eligible for the first week that they are unemployed. This is called the 'Waiting Week'. The UC counselor should explain this to you when you call to start your claim. Under the past system, it took up to four weeks for an individual to receive his/her first week. However, due to the delays caused by changing to an automated system, it can take much longer. If you are experiencing delays, call the Unemployment Information Center at 215-557-0822 so that we can check on the status of your claim and get it expedited.  Once you start receiving checks, you will receive one every two weeks.

  2. If the UC office is delaying your check because the employer hasn't responded to the request for information on why you left work, the UC office should make a decision within two weeks based on what you have told them. If the employer disagrees with the determination they may appeal.

  3. If your eligibility is delayed because of a discrepancy in wage information, you should ask to speak to the supervisor. Tell the supervisor that you want a field representative to check on the delay, and get it cleared up. Make sure this is happening. If you are on UC for federal employees (UCFE) the UC office should make a decision using your pay stubs and W-2 form to determine what your benefit will be.

Benefits While Waiting for UC Checks

A person with a child or children may also get Welfare while waiting for his/her unemployment checks to begin. S/he will have to pay back Welfare only if they receive their unemployment compensation. S/he may also be eligible for Food Stamps and Medical Assistance, according to the eligibility requirements for those programs. However, UC does count as earnings in determining eligibility

 


 

 

Filing an Appeal

If you are denied UC benefits by the Office of Employment Security (OES), and you disagree with the decision, you may file an appeal.  YOU HAVE 15 DAYS FROM THE DATE ON THE NOTICE OF DETERMINATION TO FILE AN APPEAL. Either the claimant or the employer may appeal the decision. If you file an appeal after the 15 day time period, the referee will only hear the reasons for the late appeal. The only excuses that are generally accepted by the referee are fraud or negligence on the part of the OES or another unrelated party (not you or the employer). If your appeal is late and you do not have a good reason for it being late, such as a sudden emergency, the referee will not listen to the merits of your claim. 

If you wish to appeal a decision you should fill out the “Petition for Appeal” which will be mailed to you along with the Notice of Financial Determination. All you have to put down as the reason for appealing is that you disagree with the decision of the OES. While waiting for a decision on your appeal, you still must continue to call PAT to register for benefits. If you are found to be eligible after the appeal process is completed, you will receive those checks for the weeks that you registered with PAT.  

When you file an appeal your case is assigned to a referee who will conduct a hearing to determine the merits of the appeal.

About two weeks after you file an appeal you should receive a “Notice of Hearing on Original Appeal”. The name of the referee and the time and location of the hearing will be included in this Notice. When you receive this notice you or your representative should go to the referee’s office and examine your case file before the hearing. The file will contain all the documents the referee plans to use, including the statement your employer made concerning your reasons for leaving work. It is critical that you attend the hearing regardless of who files the appeal. If you do not appear for the hearing, you risk losing without getting an opportunity to present your side of the story. You have to be present to explain to the referee the circumstances under which you lost your job since this is the only stage where you will be given an opportunity to present your case. At the referee hearing, you have the right to be represented by an attorney or other counsel. Representation may greatly improve your chances of winning and is suggested.

After several weeks, all parties are notified by mail of the referee’s decision. If you decide to appeal a negative response from the referee hearing, your appeal will go to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in Harrisburg. Instructions for filing an appeal to the Board should be included with your notice of the Referee's Decision. The Board of Review will make a determination based on testimony given at the referee hearing. No new evidence or testimony will be considered by the Board. Therefore, it is extremely important that you appear at the referee hearing to present your case. 

* APPEALS ARE NOT BEGUN AUTOMATICALLY! You have 15 days after the referee's decision was mailed to file an appeal to the Board. You may also appeal a decision from the Board of Review by appealing to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania within 30 days after the mailing date of the Board’s decision. After the Commonwealth Court, an appeal may be submitted to the Supreme Court of PA, however, at both the Commonwealth Court and the Supreme Court, winning without a lawyer is basically impossible.

* Claimant must request each step of the appeal process. Testimony is only accepted at the first referee hearing, unless there is good cause for the Board to reopen the referee hearing. The hearing can be reopened to include additional testimony by requesting a remand hearing from the Board of Review. The Board may grant or deny this request depending on whether they feel that more evidence is needed to complete the record or relevant evidence and testimony was unavailable at the referee hearing.

Philadelphia Legal Assistance

Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) provides free help to low income Philadelphians who need legal assistance with their unemployment compensation claims. They often represent claimants at Referee Hearings and can sometimes assist with appeals to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review and Commonwealth Court. In order to obtain representation from PLA, a sufficient amount of time is required to give the representative adequate time to prepare for your case. If you think you might want representation, please call 215-981-3800 as soon as you receive the Notice of Determination that you do not qualify or a notice that your employer is challenging your claim. You can also call PUP at 215-557-0822. This service is free of charge. We encourage you to be represented when you go to a referee hearing.

Philadelphia Legal Assistance
718 Arch St, Suite 300N
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-981-3800

 

 


 

Figuring Your Base Year

Your base year is generally the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the date that you apply for benefits. The amount of money you were paid by all employers covered by unemployment law during your base year determines whether you qualify for benefits and what amount you will receive. Please consult the following chart to determine your base year.

 

Figuring Your Weekly Benefit Rate

Complete the following steps while consulting the chart above to compute your weekly benefit rate.

  1. Once you have determined your base year, the next step is to determine the total gross wages you received during your base year period and how much you received during each calendar quarter in the base year. A calendar quarter is a three month period. Be careful to use gross wages (not take-home pay) and assign your wages to the correct quarter.
  2. After you determine how much you were paid in each quarter, find the quarter in which you were paid the most money. The wages in this quarter are your "highest quarterly wages". Refer to the chart below (full chart available here: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1050899&mode=2) and look at the column headed Part A, "Highest Quarterly Wage" and find your highest wages. On the same line, look at the dollar amount in Part C, "Qualifying Wage." If your total base year wages are as much as or more than the dollar amount listed in this column, then your weekly benefit rate is the amount listed in Part B, "Rate of Compensation."
  3. If your total base year wages are less than the amount listed in the "Qualifying Wages" column, you are financially ineligible for benefits.

Sample of Benefit Chart:

Part A
Highest Quarterly Wage
Part B
Rate of Compensation
Part C
Qualifying Wages
4388 - 4412
178
8737
4413 - 4437
179
8787
4438 - 4462
180
8836
4463 - 4487
181
8886
4488 - 4512
182
8935
4513 - 4537
183
8985
4538 - 4562
184
9034
4563 - 4587
185
9084
4588 - 4612
186
9133
4613 - 4637
187
9183
4638 - 4662
188
9232
4663 - 4687
189
9282
4688 - 4712
190
9331

 


 

Other Considerations When Filing UC Claims

The unemployment compensation system is designed to ease the transition period from one job to another when a worker loses a job through "no fault of his/her own." Workers and their employers pay taxes into the unemployment compensation system to support unemployment benefits

Pension Deductions

Government and other retirement pensions, retirement pay, and social security benefits which are a result of the claimant's own wages, may be deductible from your UC award. Most other types of pensions which are based on disability rather than employment are not deductible.

If you collect Social Security your benefit amount will be reduced by 50% of the amount of Social Security you receive. For example, if you receive $900 a month in Social Security, your unemployment benefits will be reduced by $450 (50% of $900) per month.

Pensions are deductible from weekly UC benefit rates on a dollar-for-dollar basis if the pension was entirely contributed to by the employer. Fifty percent of the amount of the pension is deductible if you contributed any amount to the pension.

Examples of the most common deductible pensions where employers contributed to the pension are:
Social security old age Federal Disability pensions
Social Security disability IRA and KEOGH plans
Private employer pension plans Federal Civil Service pension
State or local government pensions Railroad retirement annuities
Examples of the most common non-deductible pensions are:
Black Lung
Temporary Disability Insurance
Social Security Survivors' Benefits
Workers Compensation
Service related VA disability pensions
Widow's pensions

 

Vacation or Severance Pay

Vacation pay may be allocated only to an actual vacation period. If you receive vacation pay and you are in a temporary lay-off status, (that is, you have an expected date of recall in the near future, your vacation payment will be deducted in full from your weekly benefit.) However, if your lay-off or separation is permanent or indefinite, vacation payments will not be deducted from your weekly benefit rate.

If you received severance pay, and it exceeds 40 percent of Pennsylvania's average annual wage*, it will be deducted from your unemployment benefits. The deductible portion of your severance pay is allocated to the weeks immediately following your separation based on your full-time weekly wage. Severance pay means one or more payments made by an employer to an employee on account of separation from the service of the employer.

*The average annual wage, for unemployment compensation purposes, is based on the most recent three fiscal years, or 36 months of data. For more information, go to http://www.paworkstats.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/home/19890

Federal Taxation of Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits are considered taxable income for Federal Income Tax purpose and are reported in the calendar year in which the benefits are paid, regardless of when the claim for benefits was filed. It is your responsibility to determine if you will owe tax on these benefits. If you determine that you will owe tax on these benefits, you can have the tax deducted from your benefit check by using Form 1040ES. If you are married you may want to increase a working spouse's withholding to cover the additional tax.

For help in determining if you will owe tax, and how to make estimated tax payment call the IRS at 1-800- 829-1040.

Re-opening a Claim

Once you file an application for benefits, that claim is valid for fifty-two (52) weeks (or otherwise determined by your Notice of Financial Eligibility). If during that period you go off unemployment compensation and then return to sign up again, during the same 52-week period (you found temporary employment, for instance), you can simply re-open your old claim and receive the same weekly benefit.

Opening a New Claim After Your Benefit Year Ends

After the end of your benefit year (one year after you opened your claim) you may be able to open a new claim if during your benefit year you earned six times your weekly benefit rate. You must also have left your last job for good cause.
Example: If you receive $250/week from UC, you must earn 6 x $250 or $1500 in the year following the opening of your initial claim in order to be eligible for a new claim. These wages can be from non-covered employment, meaning work with no taxes taken out (house painting, cutting grass, etc.) You will have to document such wages.
You will also need wages of at least 16 weeks from two different quarters in your new base year in order to reopen your claim. However, at least two quarters were not counted when you applied for your original UC claim. This is because when you applied no wages were counted from the quarter you applied in and the quarter before it. These wages will often be enough to make you eligible for a new claim.

Partial Benefits

You may be paid partial benefits if your regular hours of work are reduced because of lack of work or you get a part time job after you open your claim. You can earn up to 30% of your weekly benefit rate in a claim week without reducing your benefits. Anything over 30% will be deducted dollar for dollar from your unemployment benefits. This is your "Partial Benefit Rate" (PBR). Any amount over this 30% earned in any week will be deducted from your weekly benefit rate. Be sure to report all earnings for each week you are claiming UC, even if they are below the 30%, or your claim could be terminated and you could be forced to pay back the benefits you have received.

     

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