Regular New York State Unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment Lifeline

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Regular New York State Unemployment


New York workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own may be able to get unemployment insurance (UI) benefits of up to $504 per week for up to 26 weeks. If you have not applied for UI yet, you need to apply in order to get benefits. Due to the pandemic, the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) is much busier than usual and you may have trouble applying by phone.  You should apply online if you can, but you can only do that if you speak English or Spanish.


How Do You Apply?

According to the NYSDOL website:

“If you are filing a new unemployment insurance claim, the day you should file is based on the first letter of your last name.

A – F file on Monday; G – N file on Tuesday; O – Z file on Wednesday.

Missed your day? File on Thurs-Fri-Sat.

Any claim you file will be backdated to the date you became unemployed. If you are eligible you will be paid for all benefits due.”


“NYS is waiving the 7-Day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines.”


This means that temporarily (and until further notice), claimants will not have to wait a full week before they are eligible to receive their first benefit payment. The waiting-week-waiver applies to ALL UI claimants who are now applying for UI and are deemed eligible to receive benefits.”


Online: Claimants should apply online, if they can, because getting through to apply by phone has been difficult during the COVID-19 Pandemic. This can be done here.


There is a step-by-step process explained here.


Phone: Claimants can also apply by phone (if you cannot do so online) at 1-888-209-8124, M-Th 8am – 7:30pm, Friday 8am – 6pm, Saturday 7:30am – 8pm. Translation Services are offered if you file by phone.


A fact sheet on Applying for UI can be found here.

When Should You Apply for UI?

You should apply for UI the day you stop working, or as soon after that as you can. Normally, your claim is active on the date you finish your application. Also, you would have to wait a week for benefits.  For example, if you were laid off on 2/1/2020 and did not apply for UI until 3/1/2020, you would only receive UI from 3/1/2020 (minus the standard waiting week).


However, during COVID-19, the NYSDOL will allow ALL claims to go back to the date you stopped working.  Also, the waiting week does not apply. This is because so many people are applying for benefits and you will probably have to wait to file your application.

What Should You Do After You Apply?

You should certify for benefits weekly. This means that you need to report to the NYSDOL whether you were eligible for benefits the week before.


Even if you are not getting benefits yet, it is important to certify (or “claim”) each week.  Once the NYSDOL decides you are eligible, you will receive benefits for all weeks you certified (or “claimed”) for.


A guide for claiming weekly unemployment benefits can be found here.


The NYSDOL will generally take 2-4 weeks to decide whether you can receive regular UI benefits. They will send you a Determination of Eligibility though regular U.S. Mail. It is very important to have your correct mailing address on file with the NYSDOL, and to update your contact information with them at all times.

Who is Eligible for Regular UI Benefits?

Unemployment Insurance is temporary income:

  • For eligible workers
  • Who lose their jobs
  • Through no fault of their own


To collect regular UI benefits, you must be ready, willing, and able to work, and actively looking for work during each week in which you are claiming benefits.


You will qualify for UI benefits if you worked and earned enough wages in covered employment. In New York State, employers pay contributions that fund Unemployment Insurance. It does not come out of employee paychecks. The Department of Labor decides if someone qualifies for benefits, not the employer.


***NOTE*** If you are NOT ready, willing, and able to work due a COVID-19 related circumstance, you are not eligible for regular NYS UI, but may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). You must FIRST apply for regular UI and be denied. Only after this can you apply for PUA. Please continue reading for more information on PUA.

What if the NYSDOL Determines that You Are Not Eligible for Regular UI Benefits?

If the NYSDOL decides that you are not eligible for UI, you have a right to a fair hearing. You must ask for a fair hearing, in writing, within 30 days of the date on this decision. You can do this online or through regular mail or fax.


To request a hearing online, you must go to and sign in to your NY.Gov account. You can request a fair hearing through the Secure Message Center.


To request by mail/fax, you can use the NYSDOL’s Claimant Request for Hearing form (available online) OR you can write a letter explaining why you are requesting a hearing and send to: NYS Department of Labor, P.O. Box 15131, Albany, NY 12212-5131, or fax it to (518) 457-9378.


***NOTE*** If you are denied regular UI, you should (1) Request a fair hearing AND ALSO (2) apply for PUA. If you are found eligible for PUA before the scheduling of their fair hearing, your regular UI claim becomes moot and you should withdraw your hearing request. This can be done by calling the Hearing Section where your hearing is to be held.


Pandemic Unemployment – The CARES Act


The federal CARES Act was enacted 03/27/2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.  Title II, Subtitle A, Sections 2101-2116, of CARES Act contains the Act’s unemployment insurance provisions and may be cited as the “Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act.’’


The Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act makes more UI benefits available during the COVID-19 public health emergency.   You may now be able to get one or more of the following additional types of UI benefits:


Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

You may be able to get an extra 13 weeks of benefits after you receive the usual 26 weeks of benefits.  These extra benefits, which are called PEUC, are available until December 31, 2020. So, you can receive up to a total of 39 weeks of benefits.


You can get PEUC even if COVID-19 is not the reason you stopped working. If you are just starting a new UI claim, you do not need to do anything extra to receive PEUC; you will receive the extra 13 weeks when/if you use up the standard 26 weeks.


However, if you already have a UI claim, the rules are different:

  • If the benefit year ended after July 1, 2019, you will need to file a new claim to get 13 more weeks of benefits. You will receive a letter in the mail form the NYSDOL with more details;
  • If the benefit year has not ended, but you have already received your 26 weeks of benefits, you will get a letter from the NYSDOL telling you to begin certifying to receive the additional 13 weeks of benefits; OR
  • If the benefit year has not ended, but you stopped claiming benefits before your 26 weeks were up (for example, if you went back to work), you should simply begin certifying for benefits again to start receiving UI.
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC)

If you are getting regular UI and/or PEUC, you will receive your regular benefit plus an additional $600 weekly from April 5, 2020 to July 31, 2020. PUC refers to the $600 emergency compensation.


Once you are found eligible for UI, you will automatically start getting the PUC benefit. You will get this even if COVID-19 was not the reason you stopped working.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Workers who cannot get regular UI may be able to get PUA. PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to certain people who stop working, work less, or are unable to work due to COVID-19.  These payments will cover all weeks between January 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020 when you were not working, working less, or unable to work due to COVID-19.


Who is eligible for PUA? People are eligible for PUA if they do not qualify for regular UI benefits (including self-employed workers and independent contractors) and cannot work because they:

  • Are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking diagnosis;
  • Have a member of the household who is diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • Are taking care of a family or household member diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • Are the main person taking care of a child whose school or child care, due to COVID-19;
  • Cannot get to work because there is a quarantine or because their doctor told them they should stay home, due to COVID-19;
  • Were supposed to start a new job but cannot get to work because of COVID-19;
  • Have to support a household because the head of household died from COVID-19;
  • Quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Had their workplace closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • Meet any additional criteria specified by U.S. Secretary of Labor.


If you are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave, you can not get PUA. For example, if you get leave through NY’s COVID-19 Paid Family Leave or the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), you cannot get PUA. However, once you are no longer able to take paid leave, you may be able to get PUA and should apply.


However, to be eligible to apply for PUA, an individual MUST FIRST apply through the NYSDOL UI system and be denied. Claimants can apply for PUA here.


Here are video instructions on how to apply for PUA.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on PUA, PUC, and PEUC can be found here.


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