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State unveils new kind of coronavirus unemployment payment

(Utah State Capitol, file. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – The state has a new way to help people hurting from the economic impact of COVID-19.  It’s aimed at people who normally wouldn’t qualify for regular unemployment payment.

The Department of Workforce Services unveiled the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, which is designed to work along with traditional unemployment benefits.  However, people applying for funds need to know the difference between the two systems.

“If you are eligible for unemployment insurance, then you are ineligible for pandemic unemployment,” according to Unemployment Insurance Division Director Kevin Burt.

When the pandemic first reached the US, labor officials announced they were expanding unemployment insurance payments to people who had lost hours, lost jobs, been furloughed or been laid off.  However, there were certain people who still wouldn’t qualify under that system.  Burt says the PUA fills in those gaps.

“The pandemic unemployment assistance is for people who are self-employed or working in the gig economy or they lack the sufficient wages to qualify for the traditional unemployment benefit,” he says.

It also goes to people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

People who qualify for the PUA are also eligible for the $600 weekly payment from the federal stimulus program.  Burt says they normally would be able to process claims within three weeks, however, since demand is much higher now, it could take as long as 30 days.

“Make sure that you complete the application, fully.  There is not a need to contact us.  If we have questions about your claim, we will contact you,” he says.

For anyone who is thinking about quitting their jobs to become eligible for this money, Burt says that’s a terrible idea.

He says, “If a person quits a job, that makes them ineligible for the unemployment insurance benefits.”

Workforce Services officials have a page on their website answering common questions about how someone can qualify for assistance.



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