Erie Chamber Blog
Friday March 20,  2020
by: Jake Rouch
VP, Economic Development

As things continue to develop in response to COVID-19, questions around unemployment compensation continue to arise. Below is a Q&A with Bev Rapp from Rapid Response to help explain the latest in terms we all can understand.

Q: Does unemployment compensation come from Pennsylvania or the U.S. Government?
All Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits are paid by the state in which you reside - there is not an additional federal program you apply to for aid.  The Federal Government's role in UC is as a funder to states; they pass along that money to states who pay it out to individuals.  Funding for UC comes from you (out of your paycheck), employers, the state and the feds.

Q: Who can apply for unemployment compensation?
Any person that is laid off should file an online application to begin receiving benefits. 

Q: What do I need to file for unemployment compensation?
There is a checklist on that site of all the information you should have available to file.  Assemble all of that information and then begin to complete the online form.  In addition to SSN and Employer ID number (which would be on your pay stub), you should have the contact information for who handles employment/payroll.  In addition, you should have your bank routing number and account information so they can do direct deposit.  

Q: How will I receive compensation?
After you apply, you will receive a PIN in the mail that enables you to activate your account for payment.  You will need to file every two weeks to get paid - therefore, you will need to keep your PIN so you can keep getting paid.  Normally, you have to wait one week before you can apply - this has been suspended and you can apply IMMEDIATELY.  Normally, you have to prove that you are searching for a job - this, too, has been suspended.  

Q: How often will I receive benefits?
UC benefits are weekly but paid bi-monthly (2x/month).  Thus, you have to file every two weeks.

Q: How much will I receive?
Each individual's UC benefit is calculated using the highest quarter of income out of the last five quarters.  A benefits calculator is available online. Maximum benefit in PA is $572/week and UC benefits are subject to federal taxes at this time.

Q: Is there any other option for employers to avoid layoffs? 
Yes; it is called the Shared Work Program. The Shared Work Program allows employers to reduce the hours of an employee. If an employer applies for and is approved under the Shared Work Program, then they pay the employee at the reduced hours at full hourly or salary rate and the employee can apply for UC benefits.  This is estimated to get the worker who has reduced hours get closer to 75%-80% of full-time pay with no detriment to the UC rate charged to employers.

Q: What happens if I have to fire someone, or lay off the team? 
The UC rate employers are charged for total payroll goes up because you've added someone eligible for benefits.  Thus, UC rates can be a large cost. The Shared Work Program allows employers to not rate the UC rate. An employer may opt to go that route, to minimize an increased cost. 

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