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DOL Tries to Clear Up Confusion on Jobless Aid for Self-Employed

July 22, 2020, 12:10 AM

The U.S. Labor Department issued new guidance on the complex unemployment insurance program for independent contractors, marking the agency’s latest effort to increase oversight of how states are making eligibility determinations to this crucial form of virus relief.

The guidance DOL’s Employment and Training Administration published late Tuesday updated its instructions to state workforce agencies by addressing a series of questions states have asked about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Congress created the program in March to extend benefits to gig-economy workers, freelancers, and others who wouldn’t traditionally qualify for unemployment insurance.

The guidance advises states on matters such as how to make monetary determinations and whether workers may remain on PUA after declining an employment offer that they believe would pose a risk to their health. Other questions addressed include how the penalty weeks for overpayment that disqualify a claimant under the regular unemployment compensation system affect a worker’s ability to qualify for PUA, and when eligibility for the new program expires.

The department also reinforced its ongoing emphasis on rooting out fraudulent claims, an area of concern that has caught the attention of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. A state is still required to recoup overpayments if it determines a person was paid PUA benefits in error but through no fault of their own, the guidance stated.

The latest guidance on the pandemic unemployment-relief system for contractors follows the agency’s recent initiative to scrutinize states’ administration of the program. That effort included many states receiving customized letters detailing errors in their PUA processing that threatened to terminate their license to run the program unless fixes were made.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at; Meghashyam Mali at