By Drew G. Miller, Esq.

Posted:  April 21, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the greatest job loss since the Great Depression.  A staggering 22 million American workers have filed for unemployment compensation since President Trump’s COVID-19 National Emergency Declaration on March 13.[1]

Those numbers do not tell the whole story.  The actual number of workers experiencing joblessness is much higher because many self-employed individuals – such as small business owners, independent contractors and gig workers, as well as clergy and those lacking a sufficient work history – were not permitted to obtain ordinary unemployment compensation.  However, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) has provided Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for those particular individuals.

Unemployment benefits for self-employed workers under the CARES Act are being rolled out around the country and implemented by each state.  In Pennsylvania, these individuals can now apply for unemployment through the Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation.  A link to this application can be found here:

Generally speaking, PUA, outlined in section 2102 of the CARES Act, covers those who are:

  • self-employed
  • seeking part-time employment
  • unable to receive regular unemployment compensation because they do not have sufficient work history
  • people who would not qualify for regular unemployment and are available and able to work, but are unable to do so because of COVID-19
  • people who have exhausted their rights to regular unemployment or extended benefits under state or federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment[2]

It should be noted that people who are able to telework or those receiving sick leave or other paid benefits, are not eligible for PUA.

The total number of weeks for which a covered individual may receive assistance is capped at 39 weeks[3] and your benefits will not be more than the state’s maximum benefit rate for regular unemployment compensation, which is $572 a week, and may not be less than $195 a week.  However, “all individuals collecting PUA will receive $600 per week from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), in addition to weekly benefits” outlined above.[4]

Additionally, according to the Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation’s website, you may be eligible for this compensation even if you have never worked before and:

  • You were scheduled to begin working at a new job, but cannot begin work due to COVID-19 restrictions; 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.

In order for self-employed individuals to receive this compensation, they will need to show proof of employment in the form of certain documentation, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • copies of recent paycheck stubs;
  • bank receipts showing deposits;
  • 1099s;
  • billing notices provided to your customers;
  • recent advertisements for your business or services;
  • statements from recent customers;
  • current business licenses, ledgers, contracts, invoices; and/or
  • building leases[5]

These benefits will be backdated to January 27, 2020, and those deemed eligible by Pennsylvania’s Office of Unemployment Compensation will receive compensation retroactive to January 27, 2020, or to the date of when that worker became unemployed, whichever is more recent.

For more information about Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and other legal issues facing you and your business in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, contact the attorneys at Anderson & Labovitz, LLC at (412) 209-3200.  Or you can email our attorneys – Adam Anderson (, Bill Labovitz ( and Drew Miller (  For more information about our firm, visit our website at  


[2] CARES Act, PL 116-136 § 2102 (2020), et seq.

[3] Id.