Last week the United States Congress passed the historic CARES Act. The act provides a staggering $2 trillion in monetary stimulus in order to help keep the economy going as much as possible while the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe.
The CARES Act provides a number of stimuli for various groups including corporations, hospitals, American households, and the unemployed. Particularly, $250 billion of the $2 trillion is set aside for bolstering unemployment benefits. Under the CARES Act, these benefits will rise by $600 a week and unemployment benefits will be extended by 13 weeks.
Importantly, the CARES Act also extends unemployment benefits to gig economy and freelance workers. But while unemployed former workers can now register to receive the increased unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act, gig economy workers and freelancers are still in a sort of limbo.
As CNBC reports, there’s mass confusion over how exactly gig economy workers, the self-employed, and freelancers go about proving they are entitled to unemployment benefits under the CARES Act. That’s because most states’ unemployment administrations haven’t had time to set up procedures for processing unemployment claims from the self-employed. While a laid-off worker generally needs to provide past W-2s to claim unemployment benefits, freelancers and gig economy workers have no such W-2s.
Some states are allowing the self-employed to submit their Schedule Cs to enroll in unemployment benefits, while other states are telling the self-employed who are now out of work to not apply for benefits at this time.
It seems most states are waiting for federal guidance from the U.S. Labor Department clarifying the new unemployment rules and the steps needed to claim under them. That guidance is expected sometime next week. Until then, self-employed workers who are recently out of work can try contacting their state’s unemployment office to see if they have their own processes in place—but don’t be surprised if said office tells you to wait and contact them again next week.