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CARES Act Unemployment for Independent Contractors, Freelancers, Self-Employed and Gig Workers

Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, many artists and creative workers, who cobble their incomes together from multiple sources, will soon be eligible for “safety net” unemployment benefits.

The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, expands eligibility to nontraditional workers such as independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers and the self-employed; increases the amount of weekly unemployment assistance workers will receive; and extends how long they can receive assistance (up to 33 weeks in Missouri and up to 39 weeks in Illinois between January 27 and December 31, 2020). To be eligible for benefits, individuals must be unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable to work for certain reasons relating to COVID-19.

Missouri and Illinois are still waiting for federal guidance regarding the CARES Act’s application and eligibility requirements, so the new benefits are not available yet. Please get ready to apply. Here’s what you will likely need to file:

• Personal information (date of birth, Social Security number, address, phone number and e-mail address)
• Information about your complete work history for the last 18 months, including:
– Employer names, addresses, phone numbers and FEIN numbers
– Work start and end dates, and reasons for leaving those jobs
– Recall date (if you were laid off, but have a set date to return to work)
• Proof of income prior to unemployment (tax forms, pay stubs, invoices, bank statements, etc.)
• Bank name, address, account number and routing number for direct deposit

Missouri’s Department of Labor’s Division of Employment Security recommends filing online because of the high call volume. The site is available 24/7 and is mobile-friendly. For information about filing a pre-CARES Act claim, watch this video.

Illinois has been so overloaded with processing the unprecedented number of layoff claims, that the Department of Employment Security has implemented a weekly filing schedule. The department did post this CARES Act Unemployment Expansion Package info sheet.

You’ll have the option of receiving payments through direct deposit into your bank account or though state-issued debit cards, which can be used at ATMs.

Unfortunately, unemployment benefits are subject to income taxes. Tax advisers encourage people collecting unemployment to have those taxes withheld, rather than settling up when you file your tax returns.

VLAA is committed to helping our creative community through this challenging time by being a source of easy-to-understand for information and by providing one-on-one assistance. If you’re in our service area, apply here to speak to a lawyer about unemployment benefits and application assistance. For those facing financial hardship, we will wave our $15 application fee.

This article is designed to provide general information; it should not be utilized as a substitute for professional legal and/or accounting services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is requires, consult a professional.