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.