Gig workers, independent contractors, freelancers and self-employed workers who lost their income due to the coronavirus may now qualify for unemployment insurance starting April 30, thanks to expanded benefits included in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. 

The Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allows self-employed individuals and independent contractors, who are normally denied regular unemployment benefits, to receive benefits through the new federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

Who Qualifies?

Under the relief law, people who are self-employed (including independent contractors and gig workers) and not eligible for regular unemployment insurance can still receive unemployment benefits if they are unable to work or are working reduced hours due to the coronavirus.

Those benefits include:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: You can receive up to 39 weeks of weekly PUA benefits. The exact amount you receive is decided by your state, which has some discretion in determining eligibility and calculating benefit payouts.
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation: An additional $600 per week to supplement state or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, payable until July 31 at the latest. You have to apply for unemployment through your state to get the $600 per week, which you may receive even if you do not qualify for state unemployment benefits or PUA.

How to File a Claim

According to the department, self-employed filers looking for PUA benefits should first file a regular state unemployment claim (using the blue button on the site). Once you are determined to be eligible, you will be able to follow the next steps after clicking the red PUA application benefit button, which will not appear on the DOL site until the middle of the week of May 4.

Please note: That red PUA button is NOT on the site yetThe Department of Labor says to file a regular state unemployment claim firstNext week, if you are deemed eligible, you’ll be able to finish the process, starting with the red PUA button. A step-by-step guide from the Department of Labor for self-employed individuals to file for PUA benefits can be found at the bottom of this article

Towards the end of the week of May 4, payments to the first group of PUA filers will begin to be sent out.

The website to file for unemployment benefits, including starting the PUA process is

While the state added updated software to quickly process claims, the website remains confusing and overwhelming. Claimants should carefully read the instructions.

After You Apply

Submitting your application for unemployment is just the first step. After that, you will need to file a weekly claim certifying that you are still out of work or operating at a loss. You will not be paid benefits for the week if you don’t file your claim, so don’t skip this step, even if your claim is still being processed.

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