Initial claims and a new benefit year?

With the pandemic coming up on a year, many folks are seeing notices on their portal about needing to file a new initial claim because they have a new benefit year. The notice looks something like the following:

Your current benefit year has ended with the week you just filed a weekly claim for.

If you want to receive benefits for the week ending 03/20/21 you must file an initial claim application to start a new benefit year. To file an initial claim click on the “File Initial Claim” button.

If you do not need to file for the week ending 03/20/21, the next time you need to file for benefits you will need to file an new initial claim application.

If you are receiving or have filed a claim for regular unemployment benefits, PEUC benefits, or EB benefits, then you need to heed this notice.

But, this notice makes no sense whatsoever if you are filing for or receiving PUA benefits because you are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits in the first place, as there is no “benefit year” connected to PUA benefits.

Claimants receiving PUA benefits have called Department staffers to ask what they should do. Those staffers have correctly replied that claimants receiving PUA benefits should NOT file a new initial claim, as that initial claim triggers a new investigation into their eligibility for regular unemployment benefits. That investigation will only delay payments even further and add to the Department’s already too high workload.

The only claimants receiving PUA benefits who should file a new initial claim at the end of a benefit year are those claimants receiving PUA benefits because they exhausted their eligibility for regular unemployment benefits, PEUC benefits, and EB benefits or those individuals receiving PUA benefits because the specific PUA reason for benefits is not available to them under regular unemployment law.

Note: The reasons a claimant normally eligible for regular unemployment benefits would receive PUA benefits is, for example, because they are quarantined because of Covid-19, school employees in certain circumstances, and those who left jobs because an employer is not following public health orders. These last two reasons are covered under new federal guidance released on February 25th of this year, UIPL 16-20 Change 5 (25 Feb. 2021). A discussion of that new guidance is in the works.

Everyone else receiving PUA benefits — typically independent contractors and claimants excluded under state law from receiving regular unemployment benefits — should NOT file an initial claim ever.

Your first initial PUA claim should suffice for all your PUA benefits until there is a new reason for you to claim PUA benefits, such as if you returned to full-time work and stopped claiming PUA benefits altogether, only to be quarantined when you caught Covid-19. In that circumstance, you would file a new PUA initial claim citing the quarantine as the reason for the new PUA initial claim. Previously, the Department did not allow any additional PUA claims to be filed. The new federal guidance mandates that multiple PUA claims be allowed.

One thought on “Initial claims and a new benefit year?

  1. I got caught by that message, now been waiting for 6 weeks for a check. Did get the backpay to 1st of the year at least and nothing since. That form jammed me up into regular UI then PEUC, and even though they said it was all cleared up weeks ago, no progress, agents state nothing on their end to say why not receiving my weekly checks, to give them more time as some agent needs to manually adjust my account.. Not sure why that agent could not be the one, likely some manila folder on someone’s desk buried until end of summer.. Last year got all of mine in September from initial claim when PUA first came out. Then the wait from Dec to beginning of April, and this now… Guess not the only one, hopefully they can work it out soon for whomever this applies to..

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