April 10th, 2020

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act dramatically expands the availability of unemployment insurance benefits to self-employed workers impacted by COVID-19. It also increases the amount of available benefits and extends the time during which benefits may be collected

The CARES Act has created “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” to provide unemployment benefits to self-employed individuals who self-certifiy that they are able and available to work within the meaning of applicable state law and are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable or unavailable to work because he or she is:

  • diagnosed with COVID-19
  • has symptoms of COVID-19 and is in the process of seeking a medical diagnosis
  • living with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • providing care to a household member with COVID-19
  • the primary caregiver to a child or other person in their household who is unable to attend school or daycare due to COVID-19
  • cannot reach work due to a quarantine
  • unable to attend work because a healthcare professional advised him or her to self-quarantine
  • scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19
  • the sole wage earner in their household due to death of the head of household as a direct result of COVID-19
  • required to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19
  • unable to work due to closure of their place of business as a direct result of COVID-19
  • self-employed, is seeking part-time employment, does not have enough work history or otherwise would not qualify for unemployment benefits under another state unemployment program

Unemployed workers are typically entitled to an amount of unemployment benefits calculated as a percentage of their prior compensation. Under the CARES Act, they will continue to be eligible for such state-specific benefits plus an additional $600 per week for each week of unemployment.

It is presently unclear what documentation self-employed individuals will be required to submit to evidence of their prior compensation for purposes of calculating benefit amounts. Unlike W-2 employees, they will not be able to provide pay stubs evidencing their quarterly earnings. It is expected that forthcoming DOL guidance will clarify the calculation of benefits and the documents necessary to support those calculations.

Typically, state unemployment benefits expire after 26 weeks. The CARES Act extends this benefit period by 50 percent, permitting unemployed workers to collect benefits for up to 39 weeks. However, the $600 additional weekly benefit is currently only available to workers unemployed during the eighteen-week period spanning March 30, 2020, to July 31, 2020.

The main resource in New York State is the  NYS Department of Labor