This story is current as of 2:45 p.m. on April 9. It will be updated as we learn more. Freelancers, independent contractors, gig workers and other self-employed individuals don’t typically qualify for unemployment benefits when they lose their jobs. That is no longer the case, under provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act enacted in late March. But gig workers across the Washington region are reporting an onslaught of problems, delays and confusion when applying for benefits — and when they call their local unemployment offices seeking information, they’re met with extremely long wait times. WAMU gathered information from unemployment offices in D.C., Maryland and Virginia to get answers for independent contractors trying to collect benefits. Here is everything we’ve learned so far. I’m an independent contractor or gig worker out of work due to the pandemic. Am I eligible for unemployment insurance? You probably are, on a temporary basis. The CARES act established a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA. It extends weekly unemployment benefits to the following groups:
- Self-employed individuals;
- People seeking part-time work;
- Existing claimants who have maxed out their unemployment benefits (technically called “exhaustees”);
- Clergy and employees of religious organizations;
- People without sufficient work history normally required to qualify for benefits.