Pennsylvania Unemployment FAQs


Applying for unemployment benefits for the first time can be a lengthy process. For those who are considering filing unemployment claims in Pennsylvania for temporary financial assistance, understanding the terms surrounding the program are crucial to being accepted. Review the below Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQs, about the unemployment program and procedures in PA.

I quit after I learned my boss was going to fire me, anyway. Do I still qualify for unemployment benefits?

The department will send a notice to both the employer and to you to try and gather information that will help make a determination of eligibility for unemployment benefits. Respond in a timely manner to such information requests.

I was fired, and then ended up in prison. Can my wife still collect unemployment benefits for me?

No. Any time you are in prison, the benefits will cease. They are only claimable by the person who applied for unemployment and whose name is registered with the unemployment department.

I found out that I’m eligible for PA unemployment benefits, but they said I had to go through a waiting week. What is this?

A waiting week is a week during which the benefits are not payable. But, you should still file a claim for that week, so that it will be tallied in with the other weeks. Filing is biweekly, so depending on when you submit a claim, you may have a week or two to wait before a claim is paid.

I have worked in two states over the last year, and have been laid off from work in both of them. To which state do I submit a claim?

This is a more common occurrence than you might think. You will need to file a form called the Combined Wage Claim from one of the states where you worked. There is a portion of that form that allows you to make a claim from an additional state. However, you will only be eligible for Unemployment if you meet income eligibility requirements during a base period.

I have been declared eligible for PA unemployment, so when should I expect to receive the UC debit card?

When your first claim is filed with the system, then a PIN, a UC debit card and a handbook will be mailed to you. If you do not receive one within a week or so after making a claim, call the UC Service Center. Refrain from reopening a claim, submitting the claim twice or applying all over again. These actions actually delay processing even further.

How do I effect a name change on my UC Debit card?

You are required to notify the UC service center whenever any of your vital information changes, including your name and your address.

I thought I had a job, but then a few days later, after I closed my unemployment account, I lost my job again. Can I reactivate my old account?

Yes. Your account can be reopened by an account representative. You will need to fill out a form to reopen your claim. However, no more than a year can have passed since you had an active account.

Will my benefits for unemployment in PA go directly into my bank account?

In order to have direct deposit services for unemployment benefits, you will need to fill out the direct deposit of UC benefits form. It will take a couple of weeks, and in some instances, up to four weeks for the benefits to be issued through direct deposit.

I received my UC debit card, but don’t know where I can use it. What stores accept the card?

Actually, anyone that accepts credit card payments will take the UC debit card. There is generally no fee to do so, and you can also get cash back when you make a purchase. The UC card can also be used online to purchase any type of merchandise.

How do I fulfill my obligation for a job search in PA?

You will have to register with the JobGateway and create an account. The site will ask you to create a login and a password. You will also need the PIN number from your UC card and your ID number for the program.

How often do I have to apply for a job, or look for one while I’m on unemployment compensation?

After the first two weeks, you will be required to attest to the fact that you have applied for at least two jobs, and have been involved in at least one activity that involved searching for a job each week.

Do I have to apply for jobs that are within my field?

No. You can apply for any job that would offer you work that would be suitable and that you would be qualified to perform. You are required by the program to submit applications to jobs that offer similar wages to what you once had, however.

Can you explain to me what qualifies as a ‘work search activity?’

Searching for work can include speaking to former colleagues, networking, creating a resume and posting it on a job search service, taking a civil service test (or similar pre-employment test) or registering with an employment agency. You can also attend a job fair, spend time searching for a job on the internet or go to job search workshops.

Do I have to submit a list of all the places and people that I’ve contacted in my job search?

Yes. You are required to use form UC-304 and log each person you spoke to, or with whom you applied for a job. However, you will not be required to send the form in, unless requested.

Is the unemployment process different for federal employees?

Yes, receiving PA unemployment compensation is a slightly different process for employees who worked for the federal government. The UCFE (Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees) has its own form that you will need to fill out.

If I lost my job due to a natural disaster, can I claim benefits through unemployment?

Actually, you can. The state of PA offers a Disaster Unemployment Assistance fund that offers benefits to those who have lost their jobs as a result of a major disaster. However, this relief is usually initiated by the governor of the state, and is sanctioned by the U.S. president. You will have 30 days in which to apply for this type of assistance, and the aid is only temporary.