Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Reminder: Federal pandemic unemployment benefits, including PEUC, PUA, FPUC and MEUC, ended Sept. 4, 2021. Learn more.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

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

Claimants may receive up to 79 weeks of PUA benefits through Sept. 4, 2021. The number of eligible weeks I reduced by any weeks the claimant received of state unemployment insurance benefits and federal Extended Benefits. 

IMPORTANT: Federal guidelines require any claimants who have received PUA benefits on or after Dec. 27, 2021 to provide proof of prior employment or self-employment to receive benefits. Claimants fail to submit acceptable documentation by the deadline in their notice from DES will not be eligible to continue receiving PUA benefits and may be required to pay back benefits received since Dec. 27, 2020. Learn more.

Important information about applying for PUA

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a federal pandemic assistance program that is separate from state unemployment insurance benefits. People are not automatically eligible for PUA when they exhaust state unemployment benefits and extensions.

DES must review claims individually to determine whether a person is eligible for PUA.  When claim volumes are high, it may take several weeks for the claimant to receive a determination of benefits. 

Ongoing eligibility for PUA is evaluated on a week-by-week basis, and claimants must be out work due to a COVID-19 related reason under the CARES Act each week to keep receiving benefits.

For example, a person may have been found eligible for PUA after certifying that they were unable to work because they were diagnosed with COVID-19. If, weeks later, that person no longer has COVID-19, that would not be a valid reason for continuing to receive PUA benefits. 

It is important that claimants provide accurate and complete information when applying for benefits. Claimants who are found to have received benefits fraudulently are required to repay the Division of Employment Security and could be subject to criminal prosecution pursuant to state and federal laws.


How to Apply

  • Sign into your online account at and click on the Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance link to complete the application process.
  • If you are currently receiving state unemployment benefits, you will not see a link to file for PUA. You must be ineligible for regular state unemployment benefits to receive PUA.

PUA Payments

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.

Any benefits owed for previous weeks will be paid retroactively.

Tips for Applying for PUA

1. DES recommends you upload all necessary documents with your application before you click ‘Submit.’ However, you can submit your application even if documents, such as tax returns, are not yet available.

If you do not have your documents when you start your application, you can save your work and come back to it when you are ready to submit all of your information. Failure to provide documentation could result in an individual being provided the minimum weekly benefit amount for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.   

Examples of documents to show past employment and income:

  • 2019 Tax Returns
  • Recent Paycheck Stubs
  • Bank Receipts
  • 1099s
  • Billing statements, notices
  • Business licenses
  • Contracts, invoices, ledgers

Examples of documents to show COVID-19 as the reason for loss of work:

  • Documentation from medical professionals related to diagnosis or isolation instructions
  • Notices from school or childcare providers
  • Notices from county or state government regarding business closures or stay at home orders
  • Documentation that a job offer or need for your services was cancelled or delayed because of COVID-19

2. If you’re a 1099 employee, list the name and address displayed on your 1099 when completing the last employer section on your application.

On the Employment History page, select Add North Carolina Employer.








On the next page, self-employed workers and independent contractors should click on the green Manual Entry button.








On the Manual Entry page:

Enter the name and address you use for work purposes. (i.e., Joe Claimant or Joe Claimant’s Business)

Upload your proof of income before submitting your claim.












3. Complete your Weekly Certifications for every week you are filing for benefits.

A Weekly Certification is a series of yes/no questions that helps determine your eligibility for benefits each week. If you do not complete a Weekly Certification, you will not be considered for payment.

Log into your online account to complete your Weekly Certification.