The Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act makes unemployment compensation benefits available for persons not traditionally eligible (self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency.
Specifically, the CARES Act provides that a “covered individual” includes anyone who self-certifies that they are able and available to work but is unemployed or partially unemployed due to any of the following:
Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
The individual is providing care for a family member or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
The individual is the primary caregiver for a child or other person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility as a direct result of COVID-19;
The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of COVID-19;
The individual is unable to work because a health care provider has advised the individual to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
The individual was 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 individual has become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
The individual has to quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19; or
The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
The U.S. Secretary of Labor may establish additional eligibility criteria as well. Importantly, the law not only applies to employees, but also to those who are self-employed (independent contractors). Individuals are not eligible for benefits if they have the ability to telework with pay or are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits.
Impacts One-Third of Workforce
This portion of the CARES Act is welcome news to millions of Americans. The number of nontraditional workers has nearly tripled in the last few years. Nearly one-third of the workforce is comprised of self-employed professionals, sales persons, small business owners, sole proprietors and others whose primary income is from independent, customer or client-based work.
What Should You Do?
Apply online with our state’s unemployment compensation office. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get started. Be patient – most states are experiencing very high volumes of applications. If you are unable to reach them via the phone, look for an email address to submit your questions.