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Unemployment Eligibility and Qualifications
General Benefits Eligibility Criteria
To determine Pennsylvania unemployment benefits eligibility, you must meet three basic qualifications. The first is the wages eligibility criteria or financial eligibility, which requires that you have earned enough in wages over an extended period to collect Pennsylvania unemployment. The second step is the work eligibility criteria or the manner in which you became unemployed. Finally, you will need to complete a weekly certification and requalify for benefits weekly by following the requirements outlined under unemployment availability limits.
Work Eligibility Criteria
During the application process, you will be asked to provide details around how you became unemployed to ensure that it was at no fault of your own. If your previous employer disagrees with the information you provide, or it appears not to be a sufficient reason to receive benefits, a “notice form” will be sent informing you that your eligibility for benefits is under review. Both you and your previous employer will be asked to provide more information through a specified form or a telephone interview.
Common reasons for unemployment benefit denials are found listed below, but keep in mind that the burden of proof is on the individual attempting to collect benefits.
- Voluntarily quitting without a compelling or necessary reason. There are a few scenarios that would still allow someone to receive benefits after voluntarily leaving.
- Health reasons that couldn’t be accommodated;
- Losing transportation through no fault of your own;
- Spouse is relocating, and it is possible to have two residences,
- Or the work is not aligned with the description provided.
- Being self-employed while attempting to collect unemployment. The only exception would be the individual has a “sideline business” and they can prove their engagement while previously employed. Also, they cannot increase their participation since becoming unemployed.
- Discharge (or getting fired) from employment due to behavior that displays deliberately not abiding by rules, intentional negligence to the point of clear intent, or apparent disregard of standards of behavior for a workplace. Common reasons that would result in being denied unemployment benefits would be consistent tardiness, violating known and documented rules, disrupting behavior, damaging equipment intentionally or through plain carelessness, and failing a drug or alcohol test.
Wages Eligibility Criteria
As part of the application process, you will be sent a form entitled, “Notice of Financial Determination.” This notice will provide information on all employers and the total wages received in every quarter of your “base year.” You will want to review this notice to ensure that it appropriately reflects your wages and time worked because this also determines how much benefits you will receive weekly and the maximum benefits allotted. The quarter with the highest salary totals in the base-year determined the total monetary benefits given and the number of credit weeks earned.
You will also need to ensure that you meet the credit week requirement to be eligible for unemployment benefits. A credit week is defined as any week that an individual earned at least $116 in wages. You must have at least 18 credit weeks in a base year to qualify. In return, you will receive anywhere from 18 to 26 weeks of benefits.
If you do not meet the credit week requirement or wage limit because of a work-related injury, an alternate base year can be used that calculates totals based on the four calendar quarters immediately before the date of the work injury.
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Unemployment Availability Limits
There are several requirements, which if not followed, could result in a loss of eligibility for unemployment benefits. These requirements are listed below.
- Be sure to appear at the UC Service Center when requested. If you are unavailable during your designated time, be sure to communicate that timely and make appropriate arrangements.
- You must be actively searching for employment every week you claim benefits and keep a record of your activities. The details around this requirement will be outlined in sections below.
- Along with actively searching for employment, you must also participate in reemployment services that you are referred to if it appears that you are at risk of exhausting your benefits and need help or assistance finding a new job.
- Every individual claiming unemployment benefits must also register thru the PA CareerLink system after filing an application for benefits. The benefits application must be completed within a month of submitting an application.
- Finally, if you are working part-time, to maintain eligibility, you are required to accept as many hours that are being made available to you by your employer. If there are additional hours to take, it would be inappropriate for you to refuse the work to accept more unemployment benefits.
Pennsylvania only allows extended benefits when there are circumstances that cause financial hardships in the state like unusually high unemployment rates. If this occurs, an Extended Benefits period can be announced, and those that have exhausted their regular benefits may become eligible for additional assistance. At this time, Pennsylvania is not under an Extended Benefit window.