What does it mean that I have to “purge” my weekly benefit rate?

During the process of applying for unemployment compensation benefits (“UC Benefits”), an individual may receive a Notice of Determination stating that he/she did not purge their weekly benefit rate. What does that mean?

The exact language you will likely see is: “Section 401(f) – Whether claimant subsequent to disqualifying separation or subsequent to self-employment has been paid remuneration for services in an amount equal to at least six times the claimant’s weekly benefit rate.”

The language may seem confusing but it is quite simple. If the individual became separated from work under circumstances that are disqualifying, they will be ineligible for UC Benefits. What are disqualifying circumstances? If the individual was found ineligible for UC Benefits under these Sections of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law (“Law”), he/she may not receive UC Benefits:

1. 402(b) – the individual quit for reasons that were not of a “necessitous and compelling reason”
2. 402(e) – the individual was terminated for “willful misconduct”
3. 402(h) – the individual engaged in self-employment

The good news is that even if the individual is disqualified for UC Benefits under one of the above sections of Law, he/she can still collect subsequent UC Benefits. If the individual becomes separated from employment on January 1st and is ineligible for UC Benefits because of Section 402(b) of the Law, he/she can still be eligible for subsequent UC Benefits in that year. Suppose the individual lost his/her job on January 1st and secured another job on February 1st but also lost that job. If the individual lost the second job for reasons that are not disqualifying under the Law, he/she can re-open a claim for UC Benefits and collect. The only catch is that the individual must have earned at least 6 times his/her weekly benefit rate as defined by the State.

To illustrate, take the above example. Employee A quit their job on January 1, 2014 and was found ineligible for UC Benefits under 402(b) of the Law. It was determined by the State that Employee A’s weekly benefit rate was $500. Employee A cannot collect UC Benefits at this time. Employee A secures a new job on February 1, 2014 but is fired on March 1, 2014. This time, Employee A is found eligible for UC Benefits under 402(e) of the Law. In order for Employee A to be eligible under Section 401(f) of the Law, he/she must “purge” their weekly benefit rate of $500. Employee A has to prove that he/she made at least 6 times their $500 weekly benefit rate. Therefore, if Employee A made $3,000 between February 1, 2014 and March 1, 2014 at their second job, he/she will be eligible for benefits under both Sections 402(e) of the Law and 401(f) of the Law.

It is important to remember that each individual must “purge” his or her weekly benefit rate by 6 times. That is the magic number to remember. If an individual can prove they earned 6 times their weekly benefit rate and they became separated from their employment for reasons that are not disqualifying under the Law, then he/she may be eligible for UC Benefits.