Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Calculator For Self-Employed, Freelancers, And Gig-Workers

Here's what you can expect under the new Pandemic Unemployment Act in each state.
By Kathy Morris & Chris Kolmar

*We are using an estimate for unemployment benefits based on annualized salary. While this number is a good indicator, we suggest you talk to your state's unemployment office for exact eligibility requirements and calculations.

Many self-employed workers, freelancers, and others not covered by regular unemployment are now eligible to receive unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Act (PUA).

Traditionally, the self-employed have not been able to receive unemployment, as they do not pay the government unemployment insurance. However, in light of the economic situation and shut-downs, the federal government has changed the policy to include the self-employed, freelancers, and gig-workers.

Despite the new policy, many are still struggling to file and receive PUA benefits.

A disappointedly high number of states have yet to set up the systems needed to process new types of unemployment claims. Others are not telling applicants what they need for their claims to be approved or making them jump through other hoops. And good luck getting through to a human to help you!

This level of chaos has created unnecessary confusion and stress for workers just trying to get the benefits they receive.

We have a breakdown on how to file for PUA benefits, the amount you can expect to receive, and all the information you need to navigate this challenging process.

Who is eligible for PUA benefits?

  • Self-employed

  • 1099 and "gig" workers

  • Workers in jobs or earning money not covered by regular unemployment benefits.

  • Workers with less wage history or income than is typically required.

  • Workers who were going to start work but were prevented due to COVID

How Much Will I Get In Benefits?

The amount of benefits you receive depends on both your state and prior earnings. Unemployment takes place at the state level and each state has there own formula for determining unemployment. Typically, it amounts to around 40-50% of your typical earnings-- up to the state maximum.

In addition to state benefits, if you are eligible for PUA, you will receive an additional $600 per week under the CARES Act. You will only receive this supplemental pay until July 31st.

You can use our calculator to get a personalized result on the amount of benefits you can expect to receive.

How Long Can I Receive Benefits?

The CARES ACT increased the amount of time people are able to draw from unemployment benefits.

Similar to unemployment benefits, each state sets their own cap on how long the unemployed can draw checks. Before the stimulus bill, generous states had a cap of 26 weeks, or 6.5 months. Less generous states such as Florida or North Carolina only allotted 12 weeks.

The stimulus bill increased the unemployment period by adding 13 weeks to each state's unemployment period, up to 29 weeks.

Unemploymnet duration before and after the stimulus by state.

How To File For Benefits

Some states have developed a separate PUA portal for the self-employed, freelance, and gig workers.

However, in most states, you will need to apply for standard unemployment benefits first. Once you are rejected for standard unemployment, you will be evaluated to see if you meet the criteria for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Depending on your state you will either be automatically checked to see if you qualify for PUA or told you may now apply for PUA benefits now that your claim has been rejected.

You can see the best website to apply in your state, at a table further down the article. You can also use our calculator to get not only your potential benefit amount, but also the steps to file for PUA in your state.

Not all states are currently paying out PUA funds. You can see the status of your state below. Regardless of whether your state is paying benefits, you should go ahead and reply to avoid a longer wait.

What Do I Need To File?

What you need to file for PUA

  • Social security number

  • Your social security number

  • Work history for the past 18-to-24 months (if self employed for entire period, list yourself as the employer)

  • Your residential/mailing address

  • Your telephone number

  • Your email address

  • Your birth date

  • Bank statements

  • Your bank account and routing numbers

  • You will then need to prove your income, which for many gig and freelancers can be


Here are the ways you can verify your self-employment or freelance earnings:

  • W-2 earnings from any traditional employment

  • 2019 1099 form

  • 2019 tax return

  • Client invoices

  • Bank records

  • Paypal/Venmo records

What is the hold up?

states paying out pua benefits

Many have been without income for months. The passage of the CAREs Act and PUA program came as a relief to many self-employed workers who weren't sure how they were going to get by.

Yet, we are now in the middle of May and many haven't seen a single cent. Why are states being so slow to issue PUA benefits?

While traditional unemployment funds have been held up by the mass influx of the unemployed, PUA funds have been held up due to uncertainty and no infrastructure to process different types of applicants.

States first had to receive guidelines from the Labor Department on who exactly qualified. After receiving guidelines, States had to train their already strapped staff and decide how they would handle new applicants (Should they apply for standard unemployment? Will there be a separate portal?)

Finally, states had to work on getting outdated computer systems ready to process applications that would usually be turned down for not meeting requirements.

While there have been significant delays in many states, they are slowly but surely fixing the systems and getting benefits to the self-employed, freelancers, and gig workers who need them.

Where To File For PUA In Your State

State Unemployment Portal For PUA
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

Past Research & Data

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