Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Wisconsin: When and how to apply for this vital benefit

A few months ago, in response to COVID-19 and the Safer-at-Home Order, we published a COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits Guide to demystify Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance (UI) process. Since late March, some parts of this process have changed to adapt to the ongoing coronavirus situation. Wisconsin now has a specific system in place to handle Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims. PUA is a temporary federal program, but Wisconsin citizens must go through the state to receive its benefits.

Who is eligible for PUA in Wisconsin?

If you are eligible for regular Wisconsin unemployment insurance, you will not be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
If COVID-19 caused your current unemployment, you may be eligible for PUA. Even independent contractors, gig workers (like Uber drivers), and self-employed workers may receive PUA.
To be eligible for PUA, the reason you are no longer working must fit within a COVID-19 scenario. Some scenarios include:

  • Contracting COVID-19, experiencing symptoms of it, and seeking treatment or diagnosis
  • Living with or caring for someone diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Having to take care of your out-of-school children during the pandemic
  • Employer closing, even temporarily, due to COVID-19

Applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Wisconsin

  1. If you have not already applied for regular UI, and your employer pays UI taxes (most employers do!), you must first fill out a regular UI application.
  2. When your regular UI claim is denied, or if it has already been denied, you must apply directly for PUA.
  3. You will be asked to provide proof of income, and then the state Department of Workforce Development will process your application for PUA. Please know it is taking longer than usual to process all of the applications for UI and PUA. You do not need to contact the state to check on the status. If the state has a problem, they will contact you directly.
  4. If you are eligible for PUA, you will be notified and given instructions about how to receive your weekly PUA benefits.

PUA Benefits

The federal PUA program provides up to 39 weeks of PUA benefits. Weekly benefits will be between $163 and $370, depending on your 2019 income. Benefits will be retroactive to the date you became unemployed due to COVID-19.

PUA Program Timeline

Unless Congress extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the last week of PUA benefits will be the week ending December 26, 2020.

Lili Behm
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