New Program Expands Unemployment Benefits To Self-Employed Workers In The Gig Economy
Unemployment benefits are being expanded. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is now available for those who have lost income due to COVID-19 and are self-employed or working in the gig economy.
Workers such as ride share drivers and self-employed hair stylists are ineligible for traditional unemployment, but through the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program those same workers may now be able to receive some benefits. Kevin Burt is the Unemployment Insurance Division Director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Burt explains who can receive benefits through the pandemic program vs the traditional route.
“The traditional unemployment is for those that have been laid-off,” Burt continued. “Have been furloughed or have had their hours reduced and are able and available and expected to return to the job or looking for a job. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is for those that are self-employed or working in the gig economy. They lack the sufficient wages to be able to qualify for the traditional unemployment benefit, or they have been diagnosed with COVID-19.”
Burt says their website has some FAQ’s to help navigate which benefits you should apply for including an ‘Am I Eligible’ button. He says it’s very important that you only apply for the correct program for your situation.
Processing applications for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a bit tricker as it deals with self-employed workers.
“What they will have to do is provide some documentation, upload it. That includes income received in 2019,” Burt explained. “As far as their impact and their inability to continue to work due to COVID-19 there is a self-certification piece to it. However, if an individual incorrectly reports that they are not working that is considered fraud, and they will have to repay the benefits that they have received incorrectly.”
Burt says unemployment applications can usually take somewhere around 21 days to process, but due to high numbers of applications that time frame has shifted to 21-31 days.
“We have actually partnered with our workforce development division and they're going to be helping with the processing,” Burt said. “The most important thing that a claimant can do to help is apply online, make sure that you complete the application fully, and then there is not a need to contact us. If we have questions about your claim, we will contact you. Then you have to file your weekly claim to test where you're at. This holds true for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.”
More details about the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and other programs provided by the Utah Department of Workforce Services can be found here.