What is "able and available"?
When you first file for Unemployment Compensation and each time you file your weekly or biweekly claims from then on, you will have to report whether you are able to work and whether you are available for work. It is a week to week test, meaning your able and available eligibility with be determined every week.
The image below shows what the able and available question will look like on the weekly or biweekly certification.
How do I know if I am able and available?
Being able and available for work means you are mentally and physically capable of working. You do not need to be able to do your previous job. As long as you are able to perform some sort of work, if that work was offered to you, you should be able and available.
You do not need to be able to do your previous job.
Your able and available status may change week to week, which is why you must report whether you are able and available each time you file your weekly claim. For example, if you are sick or injured one week, you may not be able and available that week, but when you recover you become able and available again.
What if I can only do remote work because of the pandemic?
You should still be able and available if you can identify a job you could do remotely.
The Bottom Line
If you can name a job you can do (it does not need to be the previous job you had) and you would be able to start working if that job was offered to you, you should be able and available that week.
If you are thinking of applying for unemployment compensation for the first time, but are not sure of your able and available status, you should apply anyway. The Department of Labor and Industry will make a determination about your eligibility based on your application.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you mistakenly answered “no” for the able and available question on an initial UC application, you will need to wait for a determination to be issued from the Department of Labor and Industry about your eligibility for benefits. Before they issue a decision, the Department should send you a questionnaire in your portal to fill out. If you then receive a Notice of Determination that says you are ineligible for benefits because you are not able and available, you should appeal that determination and explain that it was a mistake. You should continue to file weekly or biweekly certifications while waiting for your Notice of Determination.
If you accidentally answered “no” for the able and available question on one of your weekly or biweekly certifications, and have been filing for UC and receiving payments, your benefits should continue. However, the Department of Labor and Industry will need to investigate and evaluate your eligibility for the week(s) you answered “no.” The Department of Labor and Industry cannot stop paying your benefits unless they send you a Notice of Determination finding you ineligible. If your benefits have suddenly stopped, and you did not receive any kind of Notice of Determination explaining why, you should contact the Service Center or your local legal aid office for assistance. If you are issued a Notice of Determination that finds you ineligible for benefits because you accidentally said you were not able and available, you should appeal the Notice of Determination.
Many people have physical limitations on their work due to injury, illness, or disability. For example, you are not able to lift more than 25 pounds or cannot stand for more than 2 hours. But most people with limitations can still do some type of work. If there is a job or type of work you could still do with your limitations, then you are able and available.
Able and available is a week to week test. So even if you were not previously able and available, that can change at any point going forward. For instance, if you were recovering from surgery you would be able and available once your doctor clears you for work. Or if you had to provide 24 hour care to a sick relative, and then your relative recovers, you would become able and available. If this happens, you should contact the Service Center and explain the change in situation. They should be able to release benefits going forward if you are otherwise eligible.
This applies even if you have a previous Notice of Determination that found you ineligible under Section 401(d)(1) (able and available). You become eligible once your situation changes, but you need to inform the Department about that change.