DENVER (CBS4) – Simone F.M. Spinner is one of hundreds of thousands of “gig” workers in Colorado, self-employed or contract workers who have been hit hard by the shutdown that has gone along with the pandemic
“We don’t get any help when things like this happen,” said Simone.
She is waiting, day after day for the state’s unemployment system to catch up to her new reality.
She is a part-time lecturer at the University of Colorado at Denver and that job, while still on at the moment, will end soon. She teaches a wine studies class. She also does culinary and wine related tours. She does public speaking, team building for corporations, often with a wine theme and wine tastings.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “I’m always a well-received speaker because of the topic.”
But none of that is happening right now. Her income has dried up and there’s a mortgage and other bills to pay.
“We all pay taxes on this money that we earn, self-employment taxes are much higher than regular taxes,” she said.
For a month, she’s been trying to apply for unemployment.
“Every time I go to the state website, there’s a message that says, ‘check back later.’ So every day for a month I go to the site and I check back later and it’s still not updated,” Simone said.
The problem, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says, starts with the fact that never before have they had to offer unemployment to gig workers like Simone. It’s never been authorized before. By rough estimate, they figure there are over 300,000 of these recently dubbed “gig” workers in the state. And many are probably seeking help all at once.
“It’s clear that pandemic unemployment assistance is supposed to be the benefit of last means,” said Jeff Fitzgerald, director of unemployment for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
It means, “Every application will be screened for eligibility for regular unemployment and it’s deemed ineligible for regular unemployment then it will be triaged.”
Normally, it takes a W2 to apply for unemployment. But gig workers don’t have that. Some have 1099 forms, some don’t. The state says applicants will need their tax returns from last year to show what they earned.
They have been testing systems to try to get it up and running and Friday morning announced the system will be a go on Monday, April 20.
Unemployed gig workers will be able to get payments retroactive to March 29. In addition, there will be federal assistance under the so-called CARES Act. That will mean an additional $400 a week for up to four months. That time frame will not be shortened because of the delays.
Simone wanted to know if that requires a separate application. Fitzgerald said it will be automatic.
“There’s no additional process you need to go through to get that $600.”
We’ll keep watch for you Simone.
“The system needs to do a little bit better job,” she said.