In the past, if you were self employed, you didn't qualify for unemployment benefits. Under the federal relief program passed in the CARES Act, you may now be able to claim compensation.
Who is eligible?
The CARES Act introduced Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which includes unemployment coverage for self-employed people who don't qualify for traditional unemployment. The benefits cover people who are either unemployed, partially unemployed (working, but earning less than before), or unable to work for a variety of reasons. Reasons you may be unable to work include:
- Being unable to reach your place of employment due to a COVID-19 quarantine
- Having your place of employment closed due to COVID-19
- Having to quit your job due to COVID-19
- Having been diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms
- Having a household member be diagnosed with COVID-19
- Being a caregiver for a family or household member with COVID-19
- Not being one of the above reasons but otherwise being unable to work
You aren't eligible if you are able to work remotely (telework) or are entitled to other paid sick/leave benefits.
These changes apply from January 27, 2020 to December 31, 2020 (as of now). You may be eligible for retroactive unemployment compensation going back to January 27 depending on when your unemployment started.
What are the benefits?
- Unemployment Benefit: the amount varies by state and is available for up to 39 weeks (ending December 31, 2020). The minimum amount per week is 50% of the average benefit payment for the state.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation: an additional $600 per week for up to 13 weeks (ending July 31, 2020).This applies to self-employed individuals and people that worked as employees for an employer.
How do I apply?
Apply through your state online or by phone.
To find the website for you state, you can visit this page.
Note: some states are encouraging self employed individuals to apply now, while other states are asking the self employed to wait until they can accommodate the application process to support self employed. If the state is asking you to wait and apply anyway, you will likely run into roadblocks or have your application rejected. Check back to your state website for updates.