On Friday, March 27, 2020, the Federal government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act to provide economic relief for the devastation resulting from the current COVID-19 pandemic. The largest spending law in US history, the CARES Act includes provisions that directly impact individuals and businesses on numerous levels. This overview presents our interpretation of the Act’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”) provision for certain individuals.

pandemic unemployment assistance

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”) Under the CARES Act, PUA is available for any individual who is not eligible for state unemployment benefits if they certify that they are unemployed or unable to work because of any of the below factors:

  • They were diagnosed with COVID-19 or experience symptoms and seek diagnosis
  • A member of their household was diagnosed with COVID-19
  • They are providing care for someone in their household or a family member who was diagnosed with COVID-19
  • They are caring for a child or other person who is unable to attend a facility that is closed as a direct result of COVID-19 (e.g. a school or workplace)
  • They are unable to reach their workplace because of quarantine or have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns
  • They were scheduled to start a job, no longer have the job or cannot reach the workplace because of COVID-19
  • They have become the breadwinner for a household because the head of household is deceased as a direct result of COVID-19
  • They could not reach their workplace or had to quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19
  • They meet other criteria set forth by the Secretary of Labor

PUA is available for self-employed workers (HR 748 Sec. 2102).


PUA is retroactively applicable to periods of unemployment starting on January 27, 2020. Benefits are available for up to 39 weeks, ending December 31, 2020.

The amount of PUA is $600/week plus the weekly benefit authorized by state where the individual was employed. It varies state by state, but the minimum is about $190 per week.

For those currently receiving state unemployment benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (“PEUC”) increases the benefits by $600/week until July 31, 2020. It extends by 13 weeks the normal eligibility period for state unemployment benefits.


To apply for these benefits, contact your state unemployment insurance agency.