RALEIGH – Some relief is now available for “gig workers” and others whose income has been affected by COVID-19 under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, according to the North Carolina Department of Employment Security.

DES says it will begin accepting applications as of April 24 for the PUA program.

Applications can be made at the DES website.

“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, is a federal program for people who are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 and not eligible for regular state unemployment benefits, such as self-employed workers and independent contractors,” DES explains.

“To help DES process claims more efficiently, claimants should upload all necessary documents, such as proof of income or proof of medical diagnosis, with their application before clicking ‘Submit.’ If a claimant does not have all of their documents ready when they start the application, they can save their work and come back to it when they are ready to submit all of their information.”

DES notes that the “fastest and most efficient way to file a claim” is through the website but idividuals who need assistance can call the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance line at 866-847-7209.

Here are key facts from DES about the program:

  • What is PUA?

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, is a federal program for people who are unable to work as a direct result of COVID-19 and are not eligible for regular state unemployment benefits, such as independent contractors or self-employed workers.

  • How to Apply

Apply at des.nc.gov beginning April 24, 2020.

If you are an independent contractor or self-employed worker who was laid off or had your hours reduced due to COVID-19, the online benefits system will determine whether you are eligible for state unemployment or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through a single application.

If you applied and were denied for state unemployment benefits before April 24, we may need additional information to determine whether you are eligible for PUA. Sign into your online account and click on the ‘Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance’ link to complete the process.

If your claim is listed as ‘pending,’ we are still reviewing your eligibility for state unemployment benefits. You may not apply for PUA while your claim is pending.

If you are currently receiving state unemployment benefits, you are not eligible for PUA.

  • PUA Payments

If there are no issues with your claim, payment should be issued approximately 14 days after you file for PUA.

To receive payments, you must complete a Weekly Certification for every week you file for benefits. In your Weekly Certification, report any wages you earned during that week.

For benefit weeks ending April 4 through July 25, 2020, an additional $600 in weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation will be paid with your PUA benefits. You do not need to apply separately for these payments.

Any benefits owed for previous weeks will be paid retroactively.

For more details and a guide to applying, check out this website.