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  • To receive unemployment benefits, you must first determine if you are financially eligible under PA Unemployment Law.

    The requirements to qualify for unemployment insurance compensation in Pennsylvania are set by Federal and State rules. Because Unemployment Insurance is regulated by federal – state policy the specific requirements and benefits vary widely by state. For instance, the percentage of unemployed workers who receive benefits range from 17 to 57 percent depending on where you live. The amount of standard unemployment benefits you receive also vary widely from state to state. For example the national average number of unemployment benefits people receive is 15 weeks, while in Pennsylvania the average is nearly 26 weeks (25.9), the maximum available.

    There are three main requirements you must meet to qualify for unemployment in Pennsylvania: 1) Past Earnings Requirements, 2) Nonmonetary Eligibility Criteria and Legal Residence Criteria.

    Past Earnings Requirements.

    The general federal guideline is very vague: You “must have previous strong attachment to the labor force”. In practice, each state must determine what level of attachment you must have to qualify. In Pennsylvania you must have received a minimum income in your previous 1-year base period of $1,320, and at least $800 must have been earned in one quarter (three month periods starting from January to March) to receive the minimum weekly benefits package. To receive the maximum $565 weekly benefits you must have earned at least $20,700 in your base period and $12,940 in your highest earning quarter.

    Nonmonetary Criteria

    The federal guideline on this requirement is also vague. To qualify you must be unemployed involuntarily through no fault of your own, and must be able, available for, and actively seeking full-time work.

    Again, each state sets the specific rules. In Pennsylvania the burden of proof is on you if you voluntarily leave your job. This means that if your employer does not sack you for lack of work and you leave of your own initiative you must have a good excuse. If you are sacked for not fulfilling your job description, arriving late, stealing or some other misdemeanor, you may not qualify unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania.

    The Pennsylvania State guideline on this matter is you must have “good cause” for quitting work. What amounts to good cause? This is determined on a case by case basis. For instance, if your spouse is in the military and is transferred you can claim good cause for quitting your job and moving. If you were being harassed at work and your employer was not willing to solve the situation (and you have evidence of this), you could prove “good cause” for leaving.

    Legal Residence Criteria.

    The only legal residence requirement to receive unemployment insurance compensation is to be a legal residence with a right to work.

    Now you know the general requirements for receiving UI benefits you are ready for your next step: filing your claim. Learn the best way to do this in our next article of our Guide To Filing An Unemployment Compensation Claim series.

    Learn how you can successfuly apply for unemployment compensation in Pennsylvania.

    This guide will help you understand the steps you must take to file for unemployment in Pennsylvania. Although it is not rocket science, filing an unemployment can be confusing and frustrating if you do not know how the system works. This series of articles will detail how the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry processes unemployment applications and what you need to do to get your unemployment compensation checks as soon as possible.

    1. Apply straight away.

    Expect your benefits application to take up to three weeks to process from the date you file your first claim. The longer you take to file your claim the longer you will have to wait for your first check to arrive. You cannot back-date your application or claim for previous weeks,

    The Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry applies a waiting week on all unemployed workers. This term is unfortunate because it can give the impression you have to wait a week before applying. This is not the case. The waiting week is the first week of your benefit year you are eligible for benefits. You will not receive any compensation for this week, but you will need to file for it to begin receiving payments.

    2. Check if you meet the minimum requirements for Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Program.

    Eligibility requirements include:

    a) You must have lost your job through no fault of your own. If you are fired for stealing, not fulfilling your job description or some other misdemeanor, you may not qualify for unemployment benefits. However, you should still try to apply for unemployment benefits if you can explain why your employer sacked you, even if it is ultimately your fault because the Labor and Industry Department’s guidelines my differ from that of your employer. For example, your boss can sack you for repeatedly getting to work late if you are given adequate warning. However, if the reason for arriving late was justified, such as a sick child or lack of transport, you may still be eligible for benefits.

    b) You must be willing and able to work full-time. If you are sick or permanently disabled, you do not qualify for unemployment. You may qualify for Social Security programs though.

    c) You must meet the Pennsylvania State minimum income requirements in your base year. This includes having a minimum of 16 weeks where you earned $50 or more and a minimum income during your base year period of $1,320 dollars. However, these minimums can change so you should always check with the Labor and Industry Department for current financial eligibility requirements.

    For a full review of Pennsylvania’s requirements for unemployment benefits read our next article in our PA Unemployment Guide To Filing An Unemployment Compensation Claim series.

    Do you qualify for a unemployment benefits? This will depend on two factors: the circumstances that caused you to lose your job –your benefits eligibility– and your wages and period of employment since your last unemployment benefits claim –your financial eligibility.

    For a discussion on benefits eligibility and the reasons for leaving a job that could disqualify you from receiving benefits read our article I Was Sacked From My Job; Do I Qualify For UC?

    So, how do you know if you meet the Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor financial eligibility? As soon as you apply for unemployment benefits you will be sent a notice of Financial Determination, also known as Form UC-44F. This form requires you provide a list of your previous employers and the wages you were paid for each quarter in your base year. Your base year is the first four quarters from your applications for benefit date.

    For example, if you claim for unemployment in June, May or April, your base year goes from the previous December to January period. If on the other hand, you apply in December, November or October you base year goes from the previous June to July. Quarters are divided as follows: 1st quarter January, February and March, 2nd quarter April, May and June, 3rd quarter July, August and September and the 4th quarter October, November and December.

    This form is used to determine your financial eligibility and the amount on your benefits paycheck. If the PA Unemployment Office decides you are eligible, the amount you receive in your check will be based on your highest quarterly wages, your total base-year wages and the number of credit weeks claimed in your base years. If, on the other hand, you are deemed ineligible for unemployment compensation you will be informed by the PA Unemployment Office with an explanation of why you do not qualify.

    If you the PA Unemployment Office decide you are not eligible, you can still file an appeal. This is how you do it.

    Your first step must be to check the information the PA Unemployment Office have is accurate. Check the determination you are sent includes all your previous employers and the wages amounts are accurate.

    If you still feel you have grounds for an appeal, you have 15 days to file your appeal with the Department of Labor and Industry. Click here to download appeal form UC-46B.

    While you are waiting for a response to your appeal you should continue to file for unemployment every week you are unemployed, so you can claim those weeks if your appeal is accepted.

    Click here for more information on how to appeal the decision of the PA Unemployment Office board.

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