How Much Can You Earn & Continue to Receive Pennsylvania Unemployment Benefits?

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Like all states, Pennsylvania allows unemployment insurance (UI) benefits recipients to continue receiving money, even if they've gone back to work part time. The amount they receive will depend on their UI eligibility and the number of hours they work each week.

Eligibility Requirements for Unemployment Compensation

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (PDLI) is responsible for distribution of UI benefits; it determines the eligibility and amount of these on a case-by-case basis. Claimants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for UI compensation in Pennsylvania:

  • They must show they lost their job through no fault of their own.
  • Their past earnings must meet a specific minimum threshold.
  • They must show availability to work and actively seek employment while receiving UI benefits.

Pennsylvania calculates a recipient's earnings through a base period, which equals the first four of five complete calendar quarters before they file for benefits. For example, if an applicant filed a claim in October 2020, the base period would be between June 1, 2019 and May 31, 2020. During this period, claimants must have earned all of the following to be eligible:

  • A minimum of $116 a week during at least 18 weeks in the base period.
  • A minimum of $1,688 during the base period's highest quarter.
  • A minimum of $3,391 in overall wages during the base period.

Amount and Duration of Unemployment Compensation Benefits

Pennsylvanians who have lost work can receive up to $572 per week in benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. The state calculates their unemployment assistance benefit amount to be about 50 percent of their average weekly earnings. All UI claims are in effect for up to one year. These totals, however, can change in times of high unemployment, as they did during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pennsylvania is also one of a few states that gives UI recipients money for their dependents. The PDLI provides claimants with an extra $5 each week for a dependent spouse and $3 a week for a dependent child. Those without a dependent spouse get an extra $5 a week for the first dependent child and $3 for an additional child; these allowances shall not exceed $8 a week. Pennsylvania defines a dependent spouse as one who lives with, and gets support from, the claimant when they file for UI. A dependent child is an unmarried person under 18. If they are over 18 and cannot work due to a disability, the state also considers them as a dependent.

Working Part Time and Collecting UI

A claimant who works part time can still receive UI payments as long as they don't earn more than their allotted benefit amount per week. They must report their gross earnings when filing. If they earn less than their weekly UI payment, the state will make up the difference. If they earn more, they won't receive a UI payment for that week. The state calculates a claimant's partial benefit credit (PBC) as 30 percent of their weekly benefit rate (WBR), then adds the PBC and WBR together and subtracts the claimant's earnings from the total. It pays the claimant the difference.

This estimate does not include reductions based on the claimant's individual situation, which can include federal tax withholding, overpayment deductions, child support, and other circumstances. If the claimant does not collect unemployment for the week due to excessive earnings, they can receive them the following week, but they may have to reopen their claim if they consistently make more money per week.

Receiving UI Benefit Payments

Claimants who file for UI online will get their determination confirmation via email, including instructions on how to continue certifying. Those who receive a letter by mail should keep it safe, as it will include personal information, such as their four-digit PIN for accessing their account and certifying weekly claims. Confirmation letters received by mail can take between seven to 10 business days to arrive.

Recipients will also get a financial determination letter within 10 to 15 business days from the date they opened their claim. This letter will show:

  • Date their claim opens and expires.
  • Weekly benefit amount, the number of weeks they'll receive payments and the process for determining the calculation.
  • Amount the claimant receives when fully unemployed and benefit estimates for when they go back to work part time.

Continuing Weekly Certification of Benefits

After receiving their first payment, claimants must continue certifying for benefits every week. Claim weeks start on Sunday and end on Saturday; claimants file for benefits every two weeks, but verify their eligibility for each week at that time. Claimants can certify weekly claims online from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. They can also call 888-255-4728 from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday to certify by phone.

Claimants must look for work and report their findings to the PDLI to continue receiving unemployment claims. To do this, they must register online with the Pennsylvania CareerLink system within 30 days after filing their initial claim to report any potential jobs they sought each week. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state suspended these requirements, but the PDLI will reinstate them on July 18, 2021.

Receiving UI Payments

Claimants can receive UI benefits by direct deposit or an agency-issued debit card. The debit card is good for three years of use; claimants who already have a card they used for a preexisting claim within that period will not get a new one. However, if it is over three years old, they will receive a new card.

UI recipients who wish to get payments directly deposited into their bank account must input their bank information when applying for benefits. They must include the bank routing number (the first nine numbers at the bottom of a check) and their bank account number. Depending on the bank, the account number can be five to 17 digits long and usually comes after the routing number.