Updated: 2020-05-08 10:00 EDT

The CARES Act creates a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In general, PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits (UI) or Extended Benefits (EB), including those individuals who have exhausted all rights to such benefits. Individuals covered under PUA include the self-employed (e.g. independent contractors, gig economy workers, and workers for certain religious entities), those seeking part-time employment, individuals lacking sufficient work history, and those who otherwise do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits.

See also: Applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

How do I know if I should apply for regular unemployment insurance (UI) or for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?

You should file for regular UI if you have an employer and:

  • you have been laid off, or
  • your hours have been reduced through no fault of your own, or
  • you cannot work because a medical or public official has directed you to quarantine or self-isolate because of COVID-19 exposure, symptoms, or a positive diagnosis; or
  • you are caring for someone who is suspected of having or has tested positive for COVID-19.

You should file for PUA if you are ineligible for regular UI because you have lost income due to COVID-19 and you:

  • are self-employed, or
  • are seeking part-time work, or
  • you cannot work because a medical or public official has directed you to quarantine or self-isolate because of COVID-19 exposure, symptoms, or a positive diagnosis; or
  • you are caring for someone who is suspected of having or has tested positive for COVID-19.

How do I know if I am eligible for PUA?

You may be eligible for PUA if you are self-employed, an independent contractor, do not have sufficient work history to qualify for regular UC, have exhausted your rights to regular UC benefits or extended benefits, work for certain faith based organizations, or otherwise are ineligible for traditional UI benefits.

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to covered individuals who are not eligible for regular UI and who are otherwise able and available to work except that they are unemployed, partially employed, or are unable or unavailable to work because of any one of the following COVID-19-related reasons:

  • You have been diagnosed with or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • Your child or other person in the household for whom you are the primary caregiver is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that school or facility care is required for you to work;
  • You are unable to reach your place of employment because of a quarantine or stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • You are unable to reach your place of employment because you have been advised by a health care provider to self- quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  • You were scheduled to start a new job and do not have an existing job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • You have become the breadwinner/major supporter for a household because the head of your household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • You had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • You worked as an independent contractor with reportable income and COVID-19 has severely limited your ability to continue performing your work activities and/ or has forced you to suspend such activities for one of the above COVID-19 reasons.

How do I apply for PUA?

If you are not eligible for traditional UI benefits, we will send you a denial with instructions on how to file for PUA. A denial includes a monetary determination that states you have no eligible wages.

How do I determine if I am "self-employed" or an "independent contractor"?

Federal guidelines for PUA define "self-employed individuals" as those whose primary reliance for income is on the performance of services in the individual's own business or on the individual's own farm.

For the purposes of PUA, "self-employed" includes independent contractors, gig economy workers, and workers for certain religious entities.

In Delaware, the determination of whether you are an "employee" or an "independent contractor" depends on the conditions of your work, not on what your employer tells you or how your employer has classified you.

To be considered an independent contractor, the following must be shown to the satisfaction of the department:

  1. The individual has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of the services involved, both under the contract of service and in fact, and
  2. Services are performed either outside the usual course of business or outside the places of business of the enterprise that the service is being performed; and
  3. As to such services, the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in the service being performed.

I have never worked before. Am I eligible for PUA?

  • you were scheduled to commence employment and do not have a job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; or
  • your job offer was rescinded because of COVID-19; or
  • you have become the breadwinner or major supporter for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.

I am a small business owner. Am I eligible for PUA?

Yes, you may be eligible for PUA if your primary source of income is from work you do for your own business or on your own farm, and if you have a COVID-19 reason for being unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work.

What documentation do I need to show my previous income?

Acceptable documentation of wages can include but is not limited to:

  • tax returns;
  • paycheck stubs;
  • bank receipts;
  • ledgers;
  • contracts;
  • invoices; and/or
  • billing statements.

How much will I receive in PUA benefits?

The amount of PUA benefits you will receive is based on your previous income reported. PUA benefits may not be more than the state's maximum weekly benefit rate for regular unemployment insurance (UI), which is $400.00 in Delaware. PUA benefits may not be less than half of the state's average weekly benefit amount. In Delaware, the minimum weekly PUA benefit amount is $133.00. Your minimum weekly benefit amount may be reduced by certain deductions, including weekly earnings, pension, retirement, Paycheck Protection Program payments, or paid sick leave or other paid leave.

All individuals entitled to at least $1 in PUA benefits in a week will also receive $600.00 for that week from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), in addition to PUA weekly benefits.

Am I eligible for the extra $600.00 a week that people collecting regular unemployment insurance benefits receive?

Yes, if you are eligible for at least $1 of PUA in a week, you are also eligible for $600.00 for that week under the FPUC program.

How long will PUA benefits be available?

The maximum length of time an individual may collect PUA benefits is 39 weeks. PUA will no longer be available after the week ending December 26, 2020. The last week the FPUC is payable is the week ending July 25, 2020.

I'm able to telework. Can I collect benefits under PUA?

No. If you are able to telework with pay or declined an option to telework for the same number of hours, you are not eligible for PUA.

My hours have been reduced. Can I collect benefits under PUA?

If you are working fewer hours due to COVID-19 and it has resulted in a loss in income, and you are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits (UI), you may be eligible for PUA.

My employer remains open, but I am on paid leave. Should I file for PUA instead?

If you are receiving paid sick leave or other leave benefits, you are not eligible for PUA.

If you exhaust your paid leave but are unable to work for one or more of the COVID-19 related reasons listed in the FAQ, you may be eligible for regular UC or PUA at that time.

Am I eligible for PUA if I had to quit my job because I tested positive for COVID-19 or was being treated by a medical professional for COVID-19 symptoms and could not telework or otherwise continue work activities?

Yes, you may be eligible for PUA in this situation.

Am I eligible for PUA if I had to quit my job because I came in direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been diagnosed by a medical professional as having COVID-19, and, on the advice of a qualified medical health professional I was required to resign from my job in order to quarantine?

Yes, you may be eligible for PUA in this situation.

I work in the gig economy. Am I eligible for PUA?

Yes, gig workers with reportable income may be eligible if:

  • You are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because of one of the COVID-19 reasons listed in this FAQ; and
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities or you have had to suspend your work

I am self-employed and my income and hours have declined greatly because of COVID-19. Am I eligible for PUA?

Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, or gig workers who experience a significant diminution of work as a result of COVID-19 or have had to suspend their work as a direct result of COVID-19 may be eligible for PUA.

I am self-employed. While I was working, I was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Am I eligible for PUA?

Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and gig workers who are unable to work because of one of the listed COVID-19 reasons in this FAQ may be eligible for PUA. To learn more about eligibility requirements for PUA, please refer to the FAQ "How do I know if I am eligible for PUA?"

Department of Labor