The red button for self-employed and gig workers who are filing for unemployment under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is now available on the Department of Labor website.
The website will accept applications from self-employed individuals, including independent contractors and gig workers, who have already gone through the first step and filed through the state unemployment system, and have received a notice in the mail from the Labor Department.
The red button, which is the second step in the process, will help the self-employed or gig workers access up to $649 per week. The minimum is $198 per week. The benefits are payable for 39 weeks of filing, regardless if the weeks are partial or total benefit weeks.
“We worked very hard to get this to fruition,” Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said of the new PUA system.
The agency has never served the self-employed before because they’ve been ineligible for unemployment insurance in the past. The federal CARES Act opened it up to this population.
“In these times when the pandemic has forced so many small businesses to temporarily close, we feel honored to help these workers for the first time ever,” Westby said.
The system went live Thursday morning at 10 a.m. and not everything is perfect.
He said they are dealing with a 40 year old system that’s COBOL based and they can only do one round of testing per night. However, the PUA system is brand new and they have to interface the old COBOL system with the new system.
Deputy Labor Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo said they put the red PUA button up Thursday morning and they are still working out the kinks and receiving feedback.
Westby said about 38,000 people have made it through step one of the filing process and now can start with the second step today.
“If they are deemed eligible they will receive payment within a week,” Bartolomeo said.
In order to be deemed eligible they will need to upload their 2019 tax returns. If they haven’t filed those taxes yet then they can attest they are self-employed and receive the minimum of $198 per week. Also if they don’t plan on having their taxes done anytime soon, they can upload additional documentation about their business within the next 21 days to argue they deserve more money.
Of the more than 1.9 million workers in Connecticut about 20% are unemployed at the moment, which is the most since the Great Depression.
The state has processed about 426,000 claims and paid out more than $1 billion. But there’s still more than 49,000 regular claims pending and the 38,000 PUA claims that are outstanding.
“We are in uncharted territory,” Westby said.
He said Connecticut had an 18% unemployment rate ending the week of April 18. He said of the 1.9 million workers in Connecticut, so Connecticut should easily be at 20% unemployment by the time the next report is issued.