Unemployment Information for Small Businesses and the Self-Employed During COVID-19

Last updated: 3/27/2020

Note: This post will be continually updated as additional resources become available.

As a small business owner, can I fire myself and collect unemployment?

The answer traditionally is no, but a new $2 trillion stimulus package, the CARES Act, has passed in the Senate and the House and was just signed into law by the President.

Let’s dig into how current unemployment works: Traditionally, unemployment benefits are handled at the state level and are available for employees of companies who pay into the state’s fund for unemployed workers through payroll taxes. Typically, independent contractors, the self-employed, and gig economy workers are not running payroll and therefore do not qualify.

The CARES Act allows for a historic boost of unemployment benefits.  Unemployment benefits are done at a state level and average $200 to $550 per week for 12 to 28 weeks. The CARES Act gives up to an additional $600 per week on top of whatever base amount the state provides for four months. It also adds up to another 13 weeks which will be fully covered by the federal government. Those nearing the maximum number of weeks allowed by their state get an extension. New filers get to collect the benefits for the longer period if they need it. 

This all sounds great, but this still doesn’t address our contractors, the self-employed, and gig economy workers. The great news is that the CARES Act allows for a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. This gives unemployment benefits for those unable to work because of COVID-19 and those who do not currently qualify for traditional unemployment benefits including independent contractors, the self-employed, and gig economy workers. Even better, the benefits mirror what is available in the individual’s state as discussed in the paragraph above. To learn more about how to apply for unemployment, here is a great resource to get started:  Unemployment In My State.

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