How To File For Pennsylvania Unemployment

This page provides information on how to file for unemployment in Pennsylvania. If you lost your job or your hours were reduced at no fault of your own, you may qualify to receive unemployment benefits in your state. Review the information below, if you still have questions or issues about these benefits, then we suggest to contact your local Pennsylvania Unemployment Department for assistance. It is important that you file your new claim right away because Pennsylvania unemployment insurance are not retroactive.

Pennsylvania unemployment eligibility requirements

Qualifying for benefits is a three-step process:

  • As soon as you file your application for benefits the department will determine whether you are financially eligible
  • If you are financially eligible, the department will determine if you have a qualifying separation from employment
  • If you are financially eligible and have a qualifying separation, you may qualify for benefits for weeks that you are totally or partially unemployed. You must satisfy all of the requirements in the UC Law (Law) to begin receiving UC and to maintain your eligibility for benefits.
Financial Eligibility

You must have enough wages and weeks of work in your employment history to qualify for UC. This is known as "financial eligibility." You will receive a Notice of Financial Determination (Form UC-44F) from the department that will state whether you are financially eligible and, if you are, the amount of benefits you may receive. Your Notice of Financial Determination will be accompanied by an insert that fully explains financial eligibility. Read these documents carefully and follow all instructions that apply to you.

Job Separation

To qualify for benefits, you must be unemployed or working reduced hours through no fault of your own. Generally, you have a qualifying separation if you are laid off due to lack of work. Some separations, however, are disqualifying. You are not eligible for benefits under the following circumstances:

  • You voluntarily quit your job without cause of a necessitous and compelling nature
  • You are discharged or suspended for willful misconduct or because you failed to submit to and/or pass a drug or alcohol test
  • You participate in a work stoppage determined to be a strike

There may be times when a department representative will contact you and your employer to discuss the reason for your separation from your job. If you and your employer disagree on the reason for your unemployment, or any other issues arise that may affect your eligibility for benefits, you will be given a chance to provide information and explain your side of the story. For example, you may receive a questionnaire to complete and return. If benefits are denied, you will receive a written determination, which you can appeal.

If you are already receiving benefits when a question arises about your eligibility, you will receive an Advance Notice form stating that your eligibility for benefits is being reviewed and your receipt of benefits may be affected. The Advance Notice form will give you a chance to give information about your eligibility for UC benefits. You will continue to receive benefits unless a written determination of ineligibility is issued. Promptly complete and return all forms you receive from the UC service center to avoid delays and to explain your side of the story.

Working Part Time

You may be eligible for benefits if (1) your regular hours of work are reduced, (2) you are separated from your job and have obtained part-time employment with fewer hours of work, or (3) you are separated from one job but continue to have part-time employment with another employer(s). If you are working your normal, full-time hours in any job during a week, you are not eligible for benefits for that week.

File an initial Pennsylvania unemployment claim

If you have worked your full, regular hours for your work week, then file on Sunday. If your separation from your employer caused a change to your normal working hours for the week, then file right away. Information you will need when applying for unemployment benefits:

  • Social Security Number
  • Home address and mailing address (if different)
  • Telephone number
  • Valid email
  • PIN (optional). If you have previously filed a UC claim using your previous PIN can prevent you from having to re-enter information

Information about Separating Employer:

  • Employer's name, address and phone number
  • First and last day worked with employer
  • Reason for leaving
  • Pension or severance package information (if applicable)
  • Direct deposit bank information (optional). Bank name, address, account and routing number

There are mutiple ways to file your initial unemployment claim. The fastest and easiest way is online. Complete an online application using their secure website 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. If you cannot file online, then you can try filing over the phone. Call the statewide toll-free number at 888-313-7284. Open call hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 8am to 4pm. Services for the deaf and hard of hearing can be reached at 888-334-4046.

You can also mail in your unemployment claim by downloaded the unemployment form, filling it out and mailing it to a UC service center. Services for individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) can be reached at 717-704-8474 every Wednesday from 12pm to 4pm.

What to expect after you file for unemployment

Within several business days you can expect to receive:

Claim Confirmation Letter

This letter is a confirmation that your claim was received. It will contain your PIN which is required for your bi-weekly filings. The letter will also include other important information such as, the date you will need to file your first bi-weekly claim and any other actions you must take in order to remain eligible for benefits.

Notice of Financial Determination

This letter will advise you if you are financially eligible for benefits and what your anticipated weekly benefit amount would be. This document does not indicate approval or denial of benefits. Your benefit eligibility will be determined after a review of your employment history is completed.

You can usually expect to receive your first benefit payment within four weeks of filing your application for benefits. Payments are issued via a debit card provided by the UC office or direct deposit. Remember, because of the Waiting Week, your first payment may be for only one week. It is important that you continue to file your bi-weekly claim as directed in your Claim Confirmation Letter, even as you wait for your benefit eligibility to be determined.

Maintaining Eligibility

If you are financially eligible and your separation from employment is qualifying, you must satisfy certain requirements on a continuing basis in order to remain eligible for benefits. The following chapter will explain those requirements.

Bi-weekly claim requirements

You must file a claim for each week in which you are totally or partially unemployed. A "week" is a calendar week beginning on Sunday and ending the following Saturday. The date of the Saturday is called the claim week ending date, or CWE Date. Generally, you will file claims for two weeks at one time. This is called a biweekly claim. Although you will file for two weeks at a time, you will certify your eligibility for each week separately.

To file your biweekly claim, you will need:

  • Your Social Security number and your PIN
  • The gross amount of your earnings (total amount of money earned before taxes or other deductions) for all work performed during the week
  • If you were absent from work when work was available during the week, the gross amount you would have earned if you had not been absent
  • The gross amount of holiday pay and vacation pay, if any, for the week

Filing over the Internet: You may file your biweekly claims online Sunday 6am to 11pm and Monday through Friday 6am to 10pm. After you have submitted your biweekly claim, a confirmation page will display advising you that your claim has been accepted. Do not exit the site before you receive this confirmation. If you do, your claim will not be filed and you will have to file your claim again.

Filing by Telephone (Pennsylvania Teleclaims - PAT): PAT is the department's system for filing claims by telephone. You must have a push-button telephone to use PAT. If you do not have touch-tone service, but have a telephone with a PULSE/TONE switch, call PAT with the switch in the PULSE position. When PAT answers your call, move the switch to the TONE position. You may file your biweekly claims using PAT Sunday 6am to 11pm and Monday through Friday 6am to 9pm. Telephone numbers for PAT are available here. If you get a busy signal, hang up, wait a while, and try again.

PAT will ask you a series of questions about your eligibility for UC for the first week of your biweekly claim (access the list of PAT questions). You will answer each question "yes" or "no" using the numbers on your telephone keypad. When you have answered the questions, you may have your answers repeated, clear your answers and begin again, or have your answers processed. After you have finished claiming the first week, and if a second week is available for you to claim, PAT will ask if you wish to claim benefits for the second week (PAT will identify the second week by its CWE date).

After you have completed your biweekly claim, PAT will tell you that your claim has been accepted. Do not hang up until you hear this confirmation. If you hang up or get disconnected before PAT confirms that your claim has been accepted, you will have to call again to file your claim for benefits.

Filing by Mail: This is permitted only in specific circumstances. Please contact 888-313-7284 (TTY: 888-334-4046) for information on filing claims by mail.

Filing by TTY: You may file your biweekly claims using TTY service 24 hours a day, 6 days a week (Sunday through Friday). First, you must obtain the TTY biweekly filing instructions and eligibility questions online from our TTY Information page, or by contacting the UC service center or local PA CareerLink office. After you obtain the biweekly questions, it is recommended that you review the questions ahead of time and record the answers on paper before transmitting answers through TTY. By preparing the answers in advance, there will be an increase in accuracy and reduction of mistakes that could delay benefit payment. Also, the time making the TTY call will be substantially reduced.

After you have prepared your answers, connect to the UC service center through TTY 888-334-4046. Once the UC office greeting has completed, you must type the number of the question and its answer. There is no need to type in the question itself. Continue until all questions have been answered, then disconnect the call. You will be contacted through relay service if they need additional information or have questions about your responses.

When To File Your Biweekly Claim

Your biweekly claim must be filed during the week (Sunday through Friday) immediately following the two weeks you are claiming. Your Claim Confirmation Letter will tell you when to file your first biweekly claim. If you remain totally or partially unemployed, you will continue to file biweekly claims every two weeks until you exhaust your benefits. You may call PAT to learn when to file your next claim.

If you are waiting for the department to determine whether you are eligible for benefits, continue to file your biweekly claims. If you are determined to be eligible, you will only get benefits for the weeks for which you filed claims.

The Waiting Week

The first week of the Benefit Year that you are unemployed and found eligible for benefits is called the Waiting Week. Benefits are not payable for the Waiting Week but you must file a claim for that week in order to receive credit for it.

Payments of Pennsylvania unemployment benefits

If you are eligible for benefits and file timely biweekly claims, you should receive your first benefit payment within four weeks after filing your application for benefits. (Because of the Waiting Week, your first payment may be for only one week.)

How Benefits Are Paid

Benefits are paid biweekly (every other week). The biweekly payment is usually made within four days after the biweekly claim is filed, but it may take up to ten days to receive payment. Payments may be delayed if there is an eligibility issue that must be resolved before payment can be made.

Benefits are paid to you by debit card or direct deposit. If you received UC benefits on a prior claim by direct deposit within a year before you filed your current application for benefits, and the bank account previously used for direct deposit is still active, direct deposit will carry over to your current UC claim. You may switch to a debit card if you prefer to receive your benefits in that way. If you do not have a direct deposit account, you will be issued a debit card to access your benefits, but you may switch to direct deposit. It takes time for direct deposit to begin. In the meantime, benefits will continue to be paid to you through your debit card. Your Claim Confirmation Letter contains information regarding the debit card and direct deposit options. Please visit our Payment Options page for instructions on choosing between direct deposit and debit card.

Getting Information About Your Benefits

Recent Payment Information: To find out if a recent benefit payment was made to you, log on to our Benefit Payment Information page or call PAT 888-255-4728 Sunday 6am to 11pm and Monday through Friday 6am to 9pm. Information about a payment is generally available the business day after the payment was made.

Your Payment History

If you have exhausted your entitlement to benefits and need documentation that you are no longer receiving benefits, you can print your "payment history" by visiting our Benefit Payment Information page. This printout can be used for many public agencies that request this type of information. You can also fax a request to the UC service center at 717-525-5160. You can get two free copies from the UC service center and you will be charged for additional copies.

File an appeal

You may appeal if you receive a decision that denies benefits, but you think you should be eligible, or you receive a decision that grants benefits, but you think that you should be eligible for more benefits.

UC Service Center Determination

You may appeal a UC service center determination within 15 days of the mailing date of the determination. Follow the appeal instructions that accompany the determination. Your appeal will result in a hearing before a referee, usually within 30 days after you file your appeal. Approximately seven to ten days before the hearing date, the referee's office will mail you a hearing notice with the date and time of your hearing and other instructions. The referee will make a decision based on the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing. You should present all of your evidence at that hearing because it is your only opportunity to do so. You should receive a decision from the referee within two weeks of the hearing date. If you do not receive a decision within three weeks of the hearing date, contact the referee's office. If you receive a decision from a referee in your favor, and you do not receive payment within four weeks, contact the UC service center.

Referee Decision

You may appeal a referee decision to the UC Board of Review within 15 days of the mailing date of the referee decision. Follow the appeal instructions that accompany the referee decision. The UC Board of Review will render a decision based upon the evidence that was presented at the hearing before the Referee.

UC Board of Review Decision

You may appeal a UC Board of Review decision to the Commonwealth Court within 30 days of the mailing date of the Board decision. Follow the appeal instructions that accompany the Board decision.

If you remain partially or totally unemployed while an appeal concerning your eligibility is pending, continue to file your biweekly claims for benefits. If the appeal is decided in your favor, only benefits for the weeks you claimed will be paid to you.