The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief And Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law at the end of March 2020 to combat the economic impact of COVID-19.
Per the US Department of Labor, the Program “expands states’ ability to provide unemployment insurance for many workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including for workers who are not ordinarily eligible for unemployment benefits”. In other words, the Program provides Federal funding so that the States can give unemployment benefits to Gig Economy workers who’ve lost their income, like Lyft and Uber drivers and even Airbnb hosts.
Like with any unemployment benefits, you need to file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the State where you worked, like my home state of Texas. Per that Texas Workforce Commission website, “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provides up to 39 weeks [about 9 months] of unemployment benefits for persons impacted by COVID-19 and covers individuals who are self-employed, who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation, or who have exhausted state benefits”. Per the same site, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) adds an additional $600 weekly for claimants. The Texas site clarifies that “Individuals receiving [state] Unemployment Insurance (UI)…qualify for the additional [Federal] $600”.
Update: read about the Lost Wages Assistance program, a sequel (of sorts) to the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation which expired at the end of July 2020, a sequel funded out of FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) which provides a partial replacement of $300 a week for up to six weeks.