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  • Writer's pictureKirstin Kennedy

A Guide To The Basics of UC Eligibility

There’s a lot of information to navigate when trying to figure out how to apply for unemployment benefits, and it can easily add to the stress of being out of work. Fortunately, the basics of applying for benefits are straight forward.

Any person who is unemployed can apply for the benefits to see if they qualify. There is no penalty for applying for benefits, even if you are later found ineligible. Once you apply, officials at the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Department will evaluate your application to determine your eligibility to receive benefits.

There are two main factors that will be considered by the department when evaluating an application: the amount of money that an employee made during his or her employment and the nature of the individual’s termination from his or her position.

In terms of financial eligibility, the UC board will consider the wages you earned during your employment to both decide whether you qualify and, if you do, to determine the rate of benefits that you will receive. The board will look to what is called your credit week requirements. In order to qualify, you must have earned $116 or more in a given week to receive benefits.

Additionally, officials at the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Department will determine whether you are eligible based on the nature of your employment termination. This will generally be determined after you and your former employer provide an interview to the department. The interview is often conducted over the phone. If you are found eligible for benefits, you will be notified. If not, it may be because your termination was the result of several disqualifying factors, including a discharge for willful misconduct, violating a rule, poor work performance, failing a drug or alcohol test, missing work or coming in late without an excuse, damaging property, or having an unappealing attitude.

You also may be disqualified if you voluntarily left your position, unless you are able to show that you were constructively discharged as a result of unethical or illegal business practices. Additionally, independent contractors and those who are self-employed are generally barred from receiving unemployment benefits. The Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Department defines a worker as self-employed in cases where the applicant “has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of his or her service” and the services he or she provides are “customarily” an “independently established” position.

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