I am an independent contractor. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act?
You may be eligible for unemployment benefits, depending on your personal circumstances and how your state chooses to implement the CARES Act. States are permitted to provide Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation. To qualify for PUA benefits, you must not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits and be unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of certain health or economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
The PUA program offers extended unemployment aid to individuals who have traditionally been ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits, including freelancers, self-employed workers, and independent contractors. PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits, which are available retroactively starting on or after January 27, 2020, and ending on or before December 31, 2020. This program also grants a temporary increase in unemployment compensation of an additional $600 per week, on top of regular benefits, to all UI and PUA recipients. Eligibility and application processes will vary by state, so please familiarize yourself with your particular state requirements.
How do I apply?
Contact your state’s unemployment insurance program as soon as possible after losing work. Many states have recently updated their systems with new applications for PUA and in response to the unprecedented demand unemployment agencies are experiencing. We have compiled a list of state application pages with details on how to apply as a freelancer.