To find out all about Coronavirus-related unemployment benefits     

A Guide To Unemployment Insurance Benefits For Independent Contractors

Updated : August 4th, 2020

To help Americans make it through the crisis, the federal government had announced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act in March. This program includes several provisions such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), etc.

While the PEUC program provides unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks, PUA, on the other hand, provides Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits for the otherwise non-qualifying self-employed, independent contractors, etc.

In this article, we will walk you through the Unemployment Insurance Benefits for independent contractors, eligibility, and other factors. 

Who Is Considered As An Independent Contractor?

Individuals who are in business for themselves that are free from direction, supervision, and control are considered as independent contractors. Signs of an independent contractor include an individual who:

  • Has a well-established business
  • Carries insurance
  • Advertises in the print or electronic media
  • Purchases a business listing or an ad
  • Uses business cards, invoices, and stationery 
  • Has a place of business 
  • Pays his/her work expenses
  • Invests in equipment, facilities, and supplies
  • Assumes risk for both profit and loss
  • Negotiates or sets his/her pay rate
  • Sets his/her schedule
  • Can accept or refuse work offers
  • Offers services to competitive and non-competitive businesses 
  • Can choose to hire people

Eligibility Criteria 

To qualify for the unemployment benefits, an independent contractor should meet several eligibility criteria. Some of them:

  1. The individual has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus and is receiving a medical diagnosis
  2. The individual’s family member is diagnosed with the Coronavirus
  3. The individual is giving care for a family member diagnosed with the Coronavirus
  4. The individual’s child or family member for whom he/she is giving care is unable to attend a school or any other facility that is closed as a direct result of the Coronavirus public health emergency 
  5. The individual is unable to go to his/her workplace because he/she has been advised to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider 
  6. The individual is unable to go to his/her workplace because of quarantine or other measures imposed due to the direct result of the pandemic public health emergency
  7. The individual’s workplace is closed due to the Coronavirus public health emergency
  8. The individual has quit his/her job as a direct result of the pandemic public health emergency

Unemployment Insurance Benefits For Independent Contractors: Application Process

Eligible independent contractors can apply for unemployment benefits by visiting the respective state’s Department Of Labor website. When applying, the independent contractor will be required to provide many details such as:

  • Name 
  • Address
  • Contact details
  • Social Security Number
  • Driving license 
  • Income 
  • Name and address of employers worked for in the past 18 months

Note that many times the application will be denied initially. But a subsequent process will allow the individual contractors to apply for the PUA program.  

After applying, the contractor has to provide proof of income within 21 days of submission of the application. This can include copies of 1099 forms, federal income tax statements, etc. 

The Department Of Labor will send determination notice when the application is approved that includes instructions on how to apply for weekly claims.

How Much Benefits Will The Independent Contractors Receive?

The weekly payments will be calculated on the wages and rules of the respective state. The CARES Act, however, requires the state to provide a payment of less than half of the average weekly unemployment payment in that state.

Are Independent Contractors Eligible For The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program?

Independent contractors who receive benefits under the PUA program are eligible for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. Under the FPUC program, the eligible can receive an additional $600 benefits until 31 July 2020. 


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  1. If I’m laid off and I go back to work for three or four weeks and get laid off again do I have to do the one week waiting period before I can collect again?

  2. I was informed by the automated phone system that my claim for last week 06/12/2021 was not processed due to an outstanding issue on said claim. I have tried for four days to reach a human to assist me in this matter. It’s been impossible! Please help.

    1. Anne,

      Wish we could do something for you. This is a private forum. Please continue following up regularly. You can perhaps write them an email.

  3. I am trying to request payments from aug 2015 up until 2017 I never received a debit card and just assumed that I was denied. So i did not request payment but would like to now

    1. Katrina,

      That period is past and you might not be able to claim retroactively. Please write the office an email if you wish to.

  4. Ive provided documents that were needed and i have not receive any type of response i have went without benefits for 6 weeks could someone please contact me

    1. Sondra,

      Please note this is a private forum and we do not have access to your claim. Please follow up with the office directly.

  5. To whom it may concern, Please what is wrong with the site to claim weeks? I am at the Career Source and they said it has been acting up for 2 days. I am frustrated so I can imagine how many others are like me. I was laid off 4/16/2021. My UI is showing active but still under review. Is there anything you need from me to get this going? I will give it to you. Please July rent coming up. I am tapped from asking from family to get me thru now. Please please please any answers for me? I am begging right now. I can not be late on rent or they will not renew my lease when it is time. I can not move, to costly. I have been here for 20 years. Please any suggestions. I will pay back July rent if my UI goes thru. No reason why it shouldn’t. Please help. Thanks again, Kay

    1. Kay,

      It must be a tough time for you. This is a private forum and we do not have access to your claim. Please chase the Office directly.

  6. I just filed for my first weeks benefit and am trying to change the payment method. It does not give me the verify who you are questions?

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