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Applying for Unemployment Under the CARES Act

Posted by Arnold A. Arpino | Apr 15, 2020 | 4 Comments

Applying For Unemployment in New York

First and foremost, we truly hope your family is healthy during these difficult times. If you are one of the millions of New Yorker's trying to navigate the maze of rules surrounding the CARES Act and traditional unemployment insurance, we have put together the following post to give you some information.

Regular Traditional Unemployed Insurance (UI)

Basic UI Eligibility

  • Must be monetarily eligible for benefits;
  • Must have lost job through no fault of their own (but this is a technical concept, not necessarily an intuitive one);
  • Must be capable, available, and looking for work (this has been somewhat flexible during this period).

Example of Eligibility for Regular UI (these are just some examples, not an exhaustive list)

  • Business closed by the Governor and was forced to lay off or furlough workers;
  • A worker's business closed down and their child's school closed down;
  • A grocery store worker who has diabetes, asthma, or other medical condition that puts them at risk for illness or death, asks for a leave, and then quits when denied.

Monetary Eligibility 

  • You must have worked and been paid wages in jobs covered by UI in at least two calendar quarters;
  • You must have been paid at least $2,600 in one calendar quarter;
  • The total wages paid to you must be at least 1.5 times the amount paid to you in your highest quarter;
  • Benefits are usually about half your average weekly wage up to a cap of $504 per week. If your normally earn $800 per week, you will get $400 in UI benefits;
  • Determining the benefit rate for workers who do not consistently earn the same amount of money each week is complicated but the NY DOL uses a benefits calculator found at the Department of Labor's website.

Certifying Benefits Weekly 

  • Once your submit an application you must certify sometime between Sunday and Saturday for the previous week to receive benefits for that week. You can certify online. By phone is not recommended.
  • You must indicate if you worked any part (even 10 minutes) or any day of any week for which you are certifying. Any work at all on that day counts as work for that day. And you can be accused of fraud if you worked on that day and do not indicate it. Even volunteering at a non-profit could be considered work if there is a possibility that it could lead to employment.
  • Do not certify from outside the state of New York without first notifying the Department of Labor. As a general rule, do not certify from outside the country. 
  • You will be asked if you are capable, available, and looking for work. The DOL rule's on this issue are being reviewed during the Pandemic since many businesses have been forced to closed.

FAQ's about Regular Unemployment Insurance

Q: How long does it last?

A: Normally up to 26 weeks, but now there are 13 additional weeks (PEUC) for a total of up to 39 weeks.

Q: My most recent job paid more than my previous jobs, can I get a higher benefit?

A: Maybe. If you choose the alternate base period (which includes the most recently completed quarter) you may bring your benefit rate up. Request the alternative base period within 10 days of the date that the monetary benefits determination was mailed by the DOL. The form to do so can be found here.

Q: My hours have been reduced, but I haven't been laid off or furloughed, am I eligible for UI?

A: Unfortunately, New York has the worst partial unemployment in the Country. You can get partial benefits if you worked fewer than 4 days and made less than $504 in a given week. Please be aware that any day of work, even for a few minutes per day, counts as a full day of work and reduces benefits by 25%. So for example if you work 8 hours per week at 2 hours per day for four days; your benefit will be zero. If you worked 8 hours per week one a single day you would be entitled to 75% of your benefit.

Q: I live in one state and work in another, where should I apply?

A: You should apply in the state where you worked during the base period, not where you lived. If you worked in more than one state, then you have a choice of where to apply. Most states around New York have higher benefit rates, so you may want to apply in the other state.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

The CARES Act created PEUC. Under PEUC, if you have exhausted your 26 weeks of regular UI or if you already exhausted your 26 weeks of regular UI sometime after July 1, 2019 you will receive up to 13 additional weeks of benefits if you remain unemployed. 

For weeks from April 5, through July 31, 2020 the 13 weeks of benefits will include an additional $600 per week under Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC). Important: if your benefit year ends before you finish collecting all 13 extra weeks, you will have to reapply to see if you are eligible for UI in a new benefits year. This would happen if you were on unemployment prior to the health emergency. If you are not, you might be eligible Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

The CARES Act also created PUA. From January 27, 2020 to December 30, 2020 individuals who are not otherwise eligible for benefits and are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of COVID-19 public health emergency may be eligible for PUA for up to 39 weeks.

Example of Eligibility for PUA (these are just some examples, not an exhaustive list)

  • Self-Employed;
  • Independent Contractors; 
  • People with insufficient earnings history.

Unless their earnings have been sufficiently reduced, individuals who have the ability to work from home with pay or are receiving pad sick leave or other paid leave benefits are not eligible for PUA. 

PUA Benefit Rate

  • What benefit rate will you receive?

The benefit rate will be based on 2019 tax returns of a certification of net income from 2019. There is not current guidance (as of April 14, 2020) as to how the rate will be determined on one's net income. In New York, the maximum weekly benefit rate will be $504 (same as UI). The minimum PUA benefit amount is 50% of the average weekly benefit amount in New York. For April 2020, the minimum benefit rate if $182. Note that the PUA minimum is higher than NYS minimum ($104).

  • How do you apply for PUA?

You can file a PUA application online at You cannot be found eligible for PUA until you are denied for UI. However, the DOL enlisted the help of Google and you can now submit both a UI and PUA application at the same time (as of Friday April 10), if you apply online. The new application is much more streamlined and asks less questions. A DOL worker will then call you back to follow up.

  • If you receive PUA, will you receive the $600 per week of PUC?

Yes. People collecting PUA benefits will also receive the $600 PUC benefits until July 31, 2020.

  • Are benefits from PUA retroactive?

Yes. PUA benefits can be paid retroactively for periods of unemployment due to COVID-19 beginning on or after January 27, 2020. The additional PUC benefits only run from April 5 to July 31, 2020. 

How to Apply for NY UI/PUA

  • The New York DOL is currently overwhelmed with applications. NYDOL is asking for people to apply for UI depending on their last names (update 4/16/20: the NY DOL now says you can file any day of the week (Monday through Sunday 7:30am to 7:30pm).
  • It is best to apply online and be prepared before you start the process.
  • FOR NEW CLAIMS ONLY use the application on the DOL's website found here. 
  • If you filed a new claim before BEFORE the DOL posted the new application, wait for a phone call back or a letter in the mail.
  • If you have insufficient earnings for UI, you can probably get minimum benefit amount under PUA. 

Unemployment Benefits Application Checklist

You should have the following available to you before you apply for benefits:

  • Gather all employment information for the past 18 months (October 2018 through today);
  • Employer's legal name (if a corporation or LLC);
  • Employer address;
  • Employer Identification Number (Listed as EIN on a W2 form - this is often on a pay stub as well);
  • Any pay stubs in your possession;
  • The total you were paid each quarter from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2020;
  • Your driver's license number;
  • Your social security number;
  • Bank account information including routing number and account number.

About the Author

Arnold A. Arpino

Managing Shareholder focusing on Creditor's Rights, Real Estate, & Non-Taxable Estate Planning.


Lu Reply

Posted May 15, 2020 at 09:28:33

Can I use my Alternate Base Period to increase the PUA benefit rate or does it only apply for UI?

David A. Arpino Reply

Posted Jul 10, 2020 at 12:17:06

The benefit rate for UI and PUA are calculated differently. For traditional unemployment insurance, the benefit rate is calculated on gross wages. For PUA or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the benefit rate is calculated on net income. Hope that helps.

Brahim Reply

Posted Oct 29, 2020 at 06:40:56

No one is ever talking about americans stranded abroad due to covid and they where denied unemplayment even they are tax payers.
Why are they excluded from the help ? Remember they also have bills to pay here in USA .
Am one of those americans was stranded abroad for 4 months and had arround 10k of rent to pay with no income and have a wife and two kids .
Why are we excluded from CARE ACT .

David A. Arpino Reply

Posted Nov 25, 2020 at 07:33:16

Hi Brahim,

Yes, I know. This is a tough situation. The NY Department of Labor has taken the position that if you are outside of the country you can’t be “ready, willing, and able” to work. And if that’s true, you are not entitled to unemployment benefits. So people who have been stuck abroad are basically left out.

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