Now that the Department will allow disabled workers to receive PUA benefits, here is what folks should do to get that PUA money into their hands as quickly as possible.

Filing a PUA claim

  1. If not already done, file a PUA claim with the Department by logging in at https://my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov/ and then clicking on the file PUA claim link.
  2. If unsure of the status of your PUA claim, call the Department’s special PUA help line at 608-318-7100, available from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday.
  3. If you have trouble understanding the on-line filing process or have difficulty connecting to the Internet and completing the on-line process, call the PUA help line at 608-318-7100, available from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday, to file your claim over the phone.
  4. If you need to submit any documents in support of your claim, mail those documents to:

    Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program
    PO Box 7905
    Madison WI 53707

    There is, as of July 29th, a 10+ day wait for the Department to process any paperwork the Department receives. So, there is nothing gained by faxing a document to the Department. Send the paperwork by mail and wait. First-class, regular mail is sufficient and reliable.

  5. If you have any regular wage work that is covered under regular, normal unemployment, you need to apply and have your claim for regular unemployment benefits denied.

    If you are only an independent contractor, you do NOT need to file a claim for regular unemployment benefits.

    If you are not sure of your status as an independent contractor, file a claim for regular unemployment benefits.

  6. Once your claim for regular unemployment benefits is denied because you receive SSDI benefits, call the 608-318-7100 number and ask that your PUA claim be immediately processed.

    If an appeal of that initial determination regarding a claim for regular unemployment benefits has been filed, withdraw that appeal by calling the hearing office at 608-266-8010. Then call the PUA hotline at 608-318-7100 and ask that your PUA claim be immediately processed. The Department has explained that it will not wait for any appeal periods to run before it can start processing your PUA claim.

    Note: The Labor and Industry Review Commission has held that the statutory ban on regular unemployment benefits to the disabled will remain in place for the time being.

    CAUTION: Do NOT automatically withdraw an appeal/request for a hearing or automatically decide NOT to appeal all initial determinations you receive. The only issue you should NOT be appealing is a denial of regular unemployment because you receive SSDI benefits. I have seen several initial determinations involving disabled folks that deny them benefits because they reported not being available for full-time work. See below for more information.

    If you have doubts about the issue in question, call the hearing office at 608-266-8010 and ask one of the staff to explain what the issue is. The hearing office staff are generally knowledgeable and helpful.

  7. If you were told by anyone not to file a claim because your SSDI benefits make you ineligible, file your claim for regular unemployment and a claim for PUA benefits, if any of those claims still needs to be filed.
  8. Wait for a notice about your PUA claim application being approved to arrive in the mail. That notice will include a calculation of your weekly benefit rate for PUA benefits.

    Your weekly benefit rate is based on this formula. If your wages are insufficient to qualify for a weekly benefit rate that is less than $163, then you will be paid the minimum PUA weekly benefit rate in Wisconsin of $163.

Filing weekly certifications

  1. If you filed a claim for regular unemployment benefits, you also had to file weekly certifications with that claim. Those weekly claim certifications should automatically transfer over to your PUA claim.
  2. If you stopped filing those weekly certifications because of the delays or eligibility denials by the Department, call the PUA hotline at 608-318-7100 and ask to file those missing weekly certifications. Explain that the certifications are missing because the Department had originally denied your eligibility for all unemployment benefits because you were receiving SSDI benefits.

  3. On those weekly certifications, report that you are available for full-time work. Even though all SSDI recipients typically work part-time jobs, for purposes of unemployment law you need to report that you are potentially available for full-time work (which the Department considers to be 32 or more hours per week).

    Note: this issue of availability when disabled is examined in detail in Tunisha Perkins, UI Hearing No. 11605816MW (11 January 2012). Unfortunately, the Department does not apply Perkins and will find you ineligible for failing to answer yes to being available for full-time work, causing an unnecessary hearing and delay in your benefits.

    If you have already filed weekly certifications that indicated you were not available for full-time work, submit a copy of the Perkins decision for your hearing.

  4. If you have not filed weekly certifications (because you have only filed a PUA claim and are waiting for the Department to approve your PUA claim), you can file those weekly certifications once the Department acts on your PUA claim.
  5. When reporting wages for independent contractor work on your PUA weekly certification, you report your profits minus your expenses when a wage payment is made to you.

    I still do not know when or how you report the hours worked for those wages as an independent contractor.

  6. You will only receive PUA benefits for each weekly certification you file. If you do not file a weekly certification for a week, you will NOT receive any PUA benefits for that week.
  7. If you return back to your job (or any job), you should probably skip filing a weekly certification if your work hours and pay are similar to what your were earning prior to the pandemic.

    For instance, if you averaged 15 hours a week at $10 per hour at your job prior to the pandemic, you should file weekly certifications when you are hours of work are significantly less than 15 hours a week. But, once your hours approach 15 hours a week again (with similar pay), then you should skip filing your claim for that week.

  8. If you have trouble understanding the on-line filing process or have difficulty connecting to the Internet and completing the on-line process, call the PUA help line at 608-318-7100, available from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday, to file your weekly certification over the phone.
  9. Once your weekly certifications are processed, the Department will begin paying out PUA benefits based on those certifications. The PUA benefits will come either by debit card or direct deposit into a bank account, depending on which payment method you selected.

Your PUA claim will start on the week you lost work because of the pandemic (in Wisconsin, probably sometime in March) and will be backdated to include all weeks from that starting week.

You will also receive the $600 PUC for all weeks claimed for weeks in April, May, June, and July (until the week ending July 25th).

Do not expect the Department to be mistake-free in processing these claims. I have received word already of an SSDI recipient having her PUA claim denied because she filed a claim for regular unemployment benefits for the same weeks of her PUA claim. Such a denial runs counter to the very procedure the Department is requiring claimants to follow for PUA claims.

The process outlined above is what the Department has explained it wants to follow for these claims. It is your best bet for getting PUA benefits as quickly as possible. Still, it is likely going to be at least another week to 3-4 weeks before you actually receive the PUA benefits due you.