CARES Act Unemployment Insurance Programs and GAO’s Study

About GAO

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, non-partisan federal agency. GAO examines how taxpayer dollars are spent, and provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, fact-based information to help the government work more efficiently.  For more information, please see our website at

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program and GAO’s Study 

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, or PUA, was created at the beginning of the pandemic (in March 2020) to provide compensation to certain individuals who lost their jobs or were unable to work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. PUA is a program for people who do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance compensation, such as independent contractors, self-employed workers, freelancers, gig workers, and others.

GAO is studying the PUA program and how the pandemic has affected workers who have non-traditional employment arrangements, such as independent contractors, self-employed workers, freelancers, gig workers, and others. We are conducting discussion groups (or focus groups) in Arizona and New York to learn more about the experiences of these types of workers during the pandemic, including how the pandemic affected their work situations and their experiences applying for PUA benefits. 

What GAO Will be Asking About

If you participate in one of the discussion groups, GAO will be asking about topics including:

1. How the pandemic affected your work situation

2. Whether you moved between jobs or gigs during the pandemic

3. Any challenges you faced in returning to work or finding a new job

4. Your experiences applying for PUA benefits

5. Your experiences receiving PUA benefits (if you received them)

6. Other ways your work situation during the pandemic affected you (for example, health insurance, child care, etc.)

How the Information You Share Will Be Used

Your participation in the discussion groups will in no way affect your eligibility for or receipt of current or future unemployment insurance benefits. Once the review is complete, GAO will issue a public report to Congress that will include an analysis of the information shared by discussion group participants. In the report, GAO may summarize views that were expressed in the groups or provide examples of experiences, but these will not be attributed to you directly. While individual comments may be included in the report, GAO will not attribute them by name.