Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) implementation started July 6.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides unemployment assistance to those not ordinarily eligible for it. This includes self-employed individuals, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, taxi drivers, employees of churches, employees of nonprofits or those with limited work history who do not qualify for a regular unemployment benefits program.
Step 1: Individuals must apply for regular unemployment online application on www.vidol.gov or with the call center at 877-374-0356. That applicant will receive one email stating that the application was received that includes an application number. (Please retain this number for future tracking.)
Step 2: The applicant’s information will be inputted and processed as an initial claim. The applicant will then receive a Benefits Determination letter, which will let the applicant know how much compensation or benefit they are entitled. This will be based on the number of wages that have been reported by the applicant’s employer. If a person has no wages recorded or is self-employed, the applicant will be deemed ineligible for the regular unemployment claim. When no wages are confirmed, a second determination letter is transmitted to inform on the regular unemployment benefits approval or denial. However, if a person’s record shows they do not have wages that should have been reported, the applicant can demonstrate this by submitting a W-2 or 1099 or another wage-based tax document.
Step 3: Claimants that are not eligible to receive regular unemployment benefits receive notification by mail to include a paper application with the option to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Step 4: Claimants must complete the paper Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application and submit for processing via delivering to a drop box at the Department of Labor or via mail along with the most recent tax return, and/or employment and wage documentation for Tax Year Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019. To be deemed eligible for PUA, claimants must certify (request payment) for all eligible weeks since the closing of their business due to COVID-19. A claimant will receive written confirmation in the form of a determination letter of the amount that they are eligible for under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the mail.
Step 5: If the claimant would like to receive more than the minimum under PUA. The claimant must submit additional documentation within 21 days. A claimant’s amount can be increased or decreased after 21 days. To continue receiving any benefit, a claimant must continue to certify that are affected by at least one of the 10 COVID-19-related reasons.
Individuals who may be eligible for PUA must be determined that they are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits before being evaluated for PUA benefits. If a claimant receives at least one dollar in PUA benefits, they will be eligible for the weekly $600 supplement or Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) that will be retroactively paid from the implemented date of April 4, 2020.
Reminder: claimants must show proof of contract labor wages or other self-employment earnings if they wish to receive more than the minimum.
Acceptable Proof of Wages/Income Used for PUA Claims:
Proof of wages/income for the most recently completed Tax Year Jan. 1, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2019.
Employees or 1099 independent contractors can send copies of pay stubs, earnings statements, IRS Form W-2 or IRS Form 1099 and federal income tax Form 1040 and Schedule C, F or SE.
The self-employed can send IRS Form 1040 and a copy of Schedule 1, 2, C, F or SE tax return.
Individuals who have already filed a claim with the V.I. Department of Labor and have been determined to not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits but may be potentially eligible to receive benefits under the PUA program, do not have to refile a claim. These individuals will be identified and will receive notification by mail to include the paper PUA application to be completed and returned via drop box or mail.
PUA benefits like regular unemployment benefits are taxable. The V.I. Department of Labor recommends a claimant opt to have the taxes deducted before receiving benefits to avoid a large tax liability at the end of the claimant’s benefit period.
All statements to unemployment must be truthful; if a claimant provides false or misleading information, the claimant may be determined to have committed fraud. This may lead to a person becoming permanently ineligible for benefits.
The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation will provide an additional 13 weeks of Unemployment Insurance. Benefits to individuals who have exhausted or ended regular unemployment compensation back to July 1, 2019, are potentially eligible. Therefore, if someone has exhausted benefits from July 1, 2019, forward that person should submit an online application. Individuals who have already filed a claim are going to receive a determination letter to communicate which program they may qualify for.