How can I get unemployment assistance if I'm a contractor or self-employed?

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The short answer is yes: Self-employed contractors will be able to get unemployment asssitance under the federal CARES Act. However, there is no clear guidance on how to do it, because it's never been done before.

For right now, that help is stalled, as states work out just how to do that.

That news hits contractors like Cliff pretty hard. 

"I do not get a salary," he says. "I charge by project."

"As a result, the project was created but not completed, and so I am not being paid," he said. "How do I go about applying for unemployment?"

More specifically: "What requirements does the government need, to prove that I was making this income, but it stopped because of coronavirus?"

Under the federal stimulus package, he can get money from the government, but Pennsylvania is still working out those details.

Susan Dickinson, director of policy for the state's unemployment office, advises people in situations similar to Cliff's not to file for unemployment just yet.

"We are looking at providing a separate application process for that," she said. "We are still waiting for information from the federal government to tell the states how they want them to be run."

However the application process works, claimants will need tax returns, contacts and paystubs from the last two years.

"Once we know more, we will be able to provide instructions. So, if we do need someone to file our regular application for this program, we will let them know, but for now they should not do that because it will be a separate program," Dickinson said.

In New Jersey, it's a little more backward.

A spokeswoman for the state's unemployment office says all self-employed contractors should apply online. And they will be denied, which is part of the requirement to get federal money.

They are also still working out details for how to implement the new program.

The process in New Jersey will take longer, but they say anyone in the program will also get the extra $600 from the feds every week.


Editor's note: Cliff's last name was withheld for his protection.
Each day, KYW Newsradio's Kristen Johanson will answer your questions about unemployment and the stimulus package. Like us on Facebook and send a message; tweet at us at @KYWNewsradio; or email us a question