Unemployment Compensation

PLA helps clients who are experiencing problems collecting unemployment compensation. If you have applied for benefits and been denied through a Notice of Determination, a Referee Decision, or an Unemployment Compensation Board of Review decision, we may be able to provide assistance. We also help clients who were awarded unemployment compensation, but whose former employers have appealed the decision.

We provide advice and counsel to every client who qualifies for our services. We focus on providing representation for clients at Referee Hearings.

In addition, we may be able to assist clients with appeals to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

PLA also supervises the Employment Advocacy Project (EAP), a law student pro bono project with student volunteers at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the Kline School of Law at Drexel University, and the Beasley School of Law at Temple University. EAP advocates can also provide representation for clients at Referee Hearings and in appeals to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.

You can find our landing page for all Covid19 related issues here.

You can find out FAQs about UC and PUA here.

How to get help with Unemployment Compensation

The following departments at PLA provide legal assistance with Unemployment Compensation:

Intake Procedure:

Applicants for legal assistance may call the telephone intake line or apply online. People who need assistance filing an initial application for unemployment compensation can apply for benefits on-line or call the statewide number at 888-313-7284.

Self-Help Resources

CARES Act Extensions & Updates

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Questions:

I’ve received 39 weeks of PUA.  Am I entitled to additional benefits under the CARES Act extension?

Yes. The extension provides for an additional 11 weeks (50 weeks total) of PUA.

When does the PUA program end under the extension?

PUA cannot be paid for any weeks of unemployment after the week ending April 10, 2021.  You have until then to collect the 50 weeks.

Unemployment Compensation Resources for Community Partners

Please find Philadelphia Legal Assistance's announcement graphics, informational guides, and other support documents for the general public here.

If you have questions or would like to request a translation of any English versions of these documents, please email eleeser@philalegal.org.

Do You Believe Someone Filed for PUA Benefits in Your Name? Learn about Reporting PUA Fraud

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fraud is a serious issue. If your identity is used in a fradulent PUA case, it can delay your benefits so learn how to take action to report it ASAP. 

Access and Keep Your UC Benefits

In order to access and keep your Unemployment Compensation benefits, its important to know how to appeal decisions you disagree with and how to extend your benefits for up to 26 weeks when you are eligible. This guide covers both topics. 

Navigating Unemployment Compensation

Philadelphia Legal Assistance has limited capacity to help with unemployment cases at this time.  We are only able to help with cases where: 

Filing Weekly Certifications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Common Questions about filing weekly certifications for PUA

If you have more general questions about PUA, check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Common Mistakes and Misinformation from Employers about Unemployment Compensation

My employer says I am required to use all my PTO before I can file for unemployment.

False.  There is nothing in the law that requires you to exhaust PTO (paid time off) before you file for unemployment.  It is a personal, financial decision you will need to make. You may receive more money from your PTO than your unemployment benefit payment.  Also, there is likely to be a slight delay in obtaining your unemployment benefits, so your PTO can help you bridge that gap.

Unemployment Compensation and Self-Employed Workers, Independent Contractors, and Gig Economy Workers

Unemployment Compensation is a critical benefit for the thousands of workers in Pennslyvania that have lost their jobs or have reduced hours due to coronavirus. Some workers, however, are not eligible for Unemployment Compensation benefits, so Philadelphia Legal Assistance put together answers to common questions from people who are self-employed, indepdenent contractors, or gig economy workers. 

Immigration and Unemployment Compensation: Frequently Asked Questions

Applying for unemployment compensation can be confusing and with COVID-19 causing an economic crisis, this support is more vital than ever. For folks who have questions about how their immigration status may affect their Unemployment Compensation eligibility and application the process can be more difficult, so Philadelphia Legal Assistance prepared this list of Frequently Asked Questions to provide some answers. 

I am not a U.S Citizen, can I qualify for Pennsylvania unemployment?

Frequently Asked Questions about Applying for Unemployment Compensation in Pennsylvania

Frequently Asked Questions about Applying for Unemployment Compensation in Pennsylvania 

Question:  How do I apply for unemployment?

Answer: The fastest way to apply is online at www.uc.pa.gov, but you can also call 1-888-313-7284. 

Question: When can I apply for unemployment?

Answer: You can apply as soon as your employment circumstances have changed. The earlier you apply, the earlier you can begin to receive benefits. 

How to Appeal Your Unemployment Compensation Denial

Appeal the Decision Denying Your UC Benefits!

If you receive a Notice of Determination finding you ineligible for UC benefits and you disagree with the decision, you must file an appeal within 15 days of the decision’s mailing date.*  


Right now, the best way to submit your appeal is by email. 

You can email your appeal to UCAPPEALS@PA.GOV

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance


Out of Work Due to Covid19? There Are Benefits For You!

Pennsylvania Launches Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

In response to Covid19, a new unemployment benefit program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is available to workers who are not eligible for regular Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation (UC).  

New Options for Folks Denied Unemployment Based on Financial Eligibility

Use this flowchart to help you decide your best course of action if you were recently denied UC benefits based on your financial eligibility.  

How to Select Your "Reason for Separation" in Unemployment Compensation Applications During the Coronavirus Crisis

Applying for unemployment compensation can be complicated and it is important to fill out your application carefully to receive benefits quickly.

When you apply for Unemployment Compensation you have to state a "reason for separation." Here is a graph of common scenarios folks are experiencing during the coronavirus crisis that may help you figure out what to select under "reason for separation."

The fastest way to receive benefits is to apply online at www.uc.pa.gov.

Unemployment Compensation and COVID-19

This page will be updated with information about how COVID-19 impacts unemployment benefits.

Last updated: December 28, 2020.

Unemployment compensation can put cash in your pocket when you have lost your job through no fault of your own. If you are out of work or are losing hours because of coronavirus, you may qualify for Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation.

If any of the following have happened to you at work because of the coronavirus pandemic or its impact:

Busy signals and long wait times when calling the UC Service Centers

Due to funding cuts, the UC Service Centers are currently operating with 50% of their normal staff.  Claimants are experiencing busy signals and long wait times when they try to call the Service Center (888-313-7284).

How do I contact UC?

You can call the UC Service Center at 888-313-7284.  The Service Center only take calls on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.  The least busiest time to call is towards the end of the day.  If you are still waiting on hold at 4 p.m., you will be asked to leave a message, and you should receive a call back that evening or the next day.  Due to a staff shortage at the Service Center, you may experience busy signals and/or long delays.

You can also go to CareerLink, which has direct telephone access to the Service Center.  If you are still waiting in line at CareerLink when the service centers close, you will be given a form to fill out and you should receive a call back.

There are two ways you can contact UC about your benefits claim online. 

First, you can send an email to UCHelp@pa.gov with questions or information about your claim and eligibility.  You can also attach documents to your email (for example, a doctor’s note showing you have been released to perform light duty work).  The Department should respond to you within a few days. You can always request a callback.

Second, you can fill out the "Contact Us" form on the UC website.  There is a “Comments” section where you can provide updated information to UC or ask a question.  The Department should respond to you within a few days.  You can always request a callback.


How to get information about your benefits online

The Department of Labor and Industry has put together a brief guide on their website about all the ways you can use the internet to file claims for unemployment compensation benefits and get updates about your claim.  You can find their guide here.

Applying for Unemployment

You can apply for unemployment compensation through the Department of Labor and Industry.  You can apply by telephone, internet, or mail.  The Department has a helpful web page about how to file an initial claim.

Appeals of Decisions that Deny Benefits

If you receive a decision from unemployment that finds you ineligible for benefits, it is very important that you appeal the decision within 15 days.  Unemployment takes appeal deadlines seriously and will almost always deny your appeal if it is late.

You can appeal the decision by mail, by fax, or online.  We strongly recommend you go to the nearest CareerLink Office and have them fax the appeal – they will give you a stamped receipt of the appeal.

You can find more information about how to apply on the Department’s website.

If you do not understand the decision or you are not sure whether you need to appeal, we strongly recommend you appeal immediately instead of waiting for clarification from the Department.  It may take a long time for you to get through to an Unemployment Compensation Representative on the phone, and it is possible that person will not have your full case file in front of them.  To protect your right to benefits, always appeal

If you miss an appeal deadline and you believe you have a good reason for missing the deadline, you can still appeal.  You will then have a Referee (similar to a judge) hearing to present your reasons for the late appeal.  If the Referee finds that you had good cause for the late appeal, then the Referee will consider your eligibility.  If the Referee finds that you do not have good cause, then the Referee will dismiss the appeal as untimely.  Some Referees allow claimants to present evidence about the eligibility issue (the denial you appealed) at the hearing before deciding whether the appeal is timely.  Go to the hearing prepared to discuss both why your appeal was late and your eligibility for benefits.

Biweekly Filings

In order to receive unemployment compensation, you must file biweekly claims for benefits.  If you are a claimant who is still partially or fully unemployed while an appeal concerning your eligibility is pending, continue to file your bi-weekly claims for benefits. If the appeal is decided in your favor, only benefits for the weeks you claimed will be released for payment.

Each time you file a biweekly claim you must report all work and gross wages earned during that week, regardless of when they are paid.  Unemployment also expects you to call back and update wages if it turns out later you earned more or less than the amount you reported.  Even if you early only a small amount of money, it is very important that you report your wages. 

If you fail to report wages, unemployment may later decide that you were not eligible for benefits and issue an overpayment requiring you to pay all of the money back.

Referee Hearings

When you appeal a Notice of Determination, or if your employer appeals a Notice of Determination, you will then get scheduled for a Referee Hearing.  The Referee hearing works like a mini-trial.  Both you and your employer will have an opportunity to testify and present evidence.  You should bring all relevant documentation (ex: termination letters, doctors notes, communications with supervisors) with you to the hearing.

We strongly advise that you seek legal representation for your hearing.  You have a much higher chance of winning when you attend the hearing with a representative.  You have a right to a representative in Unemployment Compensation Hearings.  If you have a hearing scheduled and would like representation or advice for the hearing, you can request a continuance of the hearing so that you can find legal representation.  You can email or fax a request for a continuance to the Referee office (fax number and email address should be on the Notice of Hearing you received).  You can call the phone number on your Notice of Hearing with questions.  The Referee office strongly prefers that you ask for a continuance more than 48 hours in advance – however, if you want a representative it is okay to ask for a continuance at any time, even during the hearing.

Philadelphia Legal Assistance provides free representation at Referee Hearings for clients who meet our eligibility and merit guidelines.

10 Important Tips about Unemployment Compensation
  1. Ask for help when you need it. That's what Philadelphia Legal Assistance is here for!
  2. Always file your appeals before the deadline.
  3. Make sure you file biweekly claims.
  4. Make sure you report all hours worked and earnings (even if not yet paid) in each biweekly claim
  5. Always check your mail for letters from Unemployment
  6. Be truthful and accurate in your conversations with Unemployment. However, you are not required to provide more information than they ask of you. When you have been fired from a job, it is the employer's burden to prove you did something wrong. Don't do it for them.
  7. Provide documentation supporting your case
  8. You only have to be able to do some type of work (for instance, light duty work) in order to qualify for unemployment. Even if you left your previous job for health reasons, if you are cleared for some type of work then it is important to let Unemployment know that you are "able and available" for work.
  9. Review the Unemployment Compensation Handbook
  10. You must register for JobGateway within 30 days of filing for benefits. If you have been denied benefits because you did not register for JobGateway, you can register immediately and your benefits will be turned back on.
Philadelphia's Paid Sick Time

Starting May 13, 2015, employees who work at least 40 hours a year within the City of Philadelphia limits will be eligible to earn paid/unpaid sick leave.

Unemployment Compensation Handbook

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry publishes the Unemployment Compensation Handbook, which explains how Pennsylvania's unemployment compensation system works.

You can view the Handbook on-line, or you can download the Handbook as a PDF file.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I check the status of my unemployment compensation claim?

You can call the UC Service Center at 888-313-7284.  The Service Center only take calls on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.  The least busiest time to call is towards the end of the day.  If you are still waiting on hold at 4 p.m., you will be asked to leave a message, and you should receive a call back that evening or the next day.  Due to a staff shortage at the Service Center, you may experience busy signals and/or long delays.


Rachel Miller - Attorney
Michael Riccio - Paralegal
Julia Simon-Mishel - Attorney

Julia Simon-Mishel is the Supervising Attorney of the Unemployment Compensation Unit.

Aaron Sommer - Attorney