How small-business owners and the self-employed can take advantage of the coronavirus stimulus
KATE ROCKWOOD FORTUNE
March 26, 2020 1:46 PM EST
At a whopping 57 million, self-employed people make up a huge piece of the country’s economic puzzle. But during a global pandemic, when business starts drying up, those who work for themselves are among the most vulnerable.
Take the example of a freelance photographer who makes a living taking photos for corporate events, professional portfolios, or marketing materials. With social distancing and entire states on lockdown, group gatherings are a thing of the past, and headshots are not likely to be topping most companies’ to-do lists. While a larger company may be able to shoulder the financial burden of an idle workforce by dipping into reserves, that’s not often true when you work for yourself.
If your business is already taking a hit, it’s good to know your options—including what’s in the stimulus package and how to protect your assets and livelihood during this crisis.
How to collect unemployment benefits in your state
Usually most self-employed people or independent contractors aren’t eligible for unemployment except in some cases in which someone has set up business as an S-corp. But things have changed. Congress recently passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act (CARES), that includes expanding unemployment insurance to self-employed workers and independent contractors. The bill extends unemployment benefits for 13 more weeks and also includes an additional $600 a week on top of state unemployment benefits for up to four months. The rate of state pay may be less for self-employed, independent contractors, and freelance workers.
Not everyone who is self-employed will qualify for unemployment, but it does make it an option for many more people. Also eligible for unemployment: anyone who becomes sick and is ordered to be quarantined.
To apply for unemployment benefits, visit your state’s unemployment website. The information you will need includes your Social Security number, your driver’s license or state ID, and Social Security numbers of any dependents you are claiming.