I provided an update last week on the pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) program to provide benefits to self-employed and it brought many questions and comments from people frustrated by the slow rollout of the program (including a security glitch).
Another call yesterday sent me back to Zoe Calkins at Workforce Services for another update. I got explanations for questions readers have raised, along with the news that the state had begun distributing retroactive payments last Monday and continued to do so through the week.
The website is functioning fully as is the call center (from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily), Calkins said.
One caller complained of getting less than expected. That was from a deduction for income taxes, at a rate selected by the applicant. Another caller complained of recently learning that she could not simply claim nine past weeks of unemployment, but had to file an individual claim for each week. Correct, Calkins said.
Yes. You must file weekly to claim your benefits for that week. Therefore, you must do the same thing for your backdated claims. There is no difference between filing a claim for last week and filing a claim for the week of, say, April 4th. They must all be filed individually.
There’s been no general announcement of the beginning of payment of retroactive claims, but Calkins said:
We have not officially announced anything about retroactive claims to the public yet. For now, only applicants who have been “fully approved” (as opposed to “interim approved”) may log in and claim retro weeks.
We began notifying applicants who were “fully approved” Sunday, May 31, that they may log in and file retroactive claims. When fully approved, applicants receive a letter notifying them of their “fully approved” status. This letter will instruct them to log in to the PUA system and file their weekly claim for the current week, along with any retro claims they may need to file. As of yesterday, June 4, 13,473 applicants have been fully approved and may log in to file retro weeks. We expect 21,265 applicants to be fully approved to file retro weekly claims by Sunday, June 7. We encourage individuals to continue monitoring their emails for notices!
I asked, just to be sure, that “fully approved” and the ability to file in that status meant money was being sent. She responded:
The first retro week disbursement went out Monday and have each day since. I don’t have number at this time but I have asked for it.
We are working on it and while we are aware of the confusion, I can promise you we are doing our very best to keep things on track, to keep the system from being overloaded, and to distribute benefits as accurately and as timely as possible.
Here are some information flyers she provided from Workforce Services.
The state began taking applications on May 2. Some 39,000 applied for benefits. The first claims couldn’t be filed until May 20. More than 16,000 received payments for the week of May 16 and more than 12,000 received payments for the week of May 23, all totaling more than $19 million.