As more and more businesses began to close their doors to circumvent the transmission of COVID-19, a record 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits—the biggest number of jobless claims in history.
The government response has also been historic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (also known as the CARES act) passed and was signed into law on March 25, 2020. The act extends many benefits not only to part-time workers, but self-employed and contract workers, helping technicians like you get access to much-needed relief.
Here are the highlights:
What’s different for self-employed workers?
The CARES Act extends unemployment insurance to self-employed workers, independent contractors, and freelancers—if they have been affected by COVID-19. According to Bryan Lazarski, a labor and employment lawyer, the requirements are defined broadly and should allow most gig workers to claim benefits.
How much will I receive?
Most states provide 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. The CARES Act offers you the length of your state benefit and extends them by 13 weeks. The federal government is also providing an additional $600 per week for up to four months. If you were already receiving unemployment, you’re still eligible to receive the 13 weeks of coverage and the $600 weekly benefit.
How and when do I apply?
To apply for unemployment, contact your state’s unemployment program. Because of the high rates of unemployment claims, some state websites have been crashing, and long wait times are being reported when you contact someone by phone. Mondays are typically a common day to file, so some economists are suggesting you try applying on another day of the week. After applying, it generally takes two to three weeks to receive your first benefit check.
Recovery checks (also known as recovery rebates)
Who is eligible?
Those that are able to apply for Social Security cards should be able to receive the funds—this includes U.S. citizens, green card holders, DACA recipients and immigrants with temporary protected status. Non-resident aliens are not able to receive stimulus checks.
How much will I receive?
Stimulus checks are based on either your 2018 or 2019 tax filings. The majority of individuals making less than $75,000 can expect a one-time payment of $1,200. If you file jointly and make less than $150,000, you could receive up to $2,400, plus $500 per child. The rebates are not counted as taxable income.
However, if your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was more than 75,000 (for single filers) and $150,000 (for joint filers), the credit will be reduced by $5 for each $100 over the limit—up to the max. For example, if you filed as an individual with no dependents and your AGI was $87,000 in 2019, your stimulus check amount would be $600. For those who haven’t filed your taxes yet, the IRS will use the AGI on your 2018 tax return. Use an online calculator to find out if you qualify, and how much you can expect your check to be. Note that stimulus checks will be sent to those with the lowest incomes first.
How do I claim my check?
The IRS has not yet released information about how to obtain your rebate check. They suggest checking their website regularly for updates, rather than calling for information. Field Nation will monitor their communications, and make updates accordingly.
Paid sick leave and family medical leave
Am I eligible for paid sick leave?
The CARES Act requires eligible employers to offer paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for workers affected by COVID-19. It also extended these benefits to self-employed individuals.
How much can I receive for paid leave?
If you are self-employed, you can receive paid leave in the form of a refundable tax credit. The amount is equal to 10 days multiplied by one of the following (whichever is less):
- $511 per day for those who are sick or quarantined, or $200 per day for those caring for someone else or on leave of other qualifying condition; or
- 100% of a sick person’s average daily self-employment income for the year, or two-thirds the average daily self-employment rate for a person caring for another person or on leave because of an HHS-specified condition.
How much can I receive for paid family leave?
The CARES Act also extends the current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover a self-employed worker’s absence to care for minors in the event their school or daycare has been closed, or if child care is unavailable due to COVID-19. The amount you can receive is equal to up to 50 days, multiplied by one of the following (whichever is less):
- $200; or
- Two-thirds of your average daily self-employment income for the year.
Emergency SBA loans
The CARES Act injected $50 billion in aid into the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) lending program. Small businesses and qualified self-employed workers can apply for their Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and receive a $10,000 loan advance. Funds are made available within three days of a successful application, and qualified recipients will not have to repay the loan advance.
Student loan payment pause
Through the CARES Act, student-loan borrowers can take a six-month payment pause and interest waiver for certain federal student loans. If your federal loan(s) are eligible, the payment pause and interest waiver will be automatic. Log into your account to make sure that both the pause and interest accrual has stopped.
New tax filing deadline
Tax Day is now July 15. When filing and paying your 2019 taxes, you have a little extra time without the need to file an extension. However, the IRS suggests filing as soon as possible if you know you’re owed a refund. Most taxpayers can file for free using Free File.