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‘How Do I Apply for Unemployment?’ and Cash in on Federal Aid Stimulus Checks

The ultimate guide to getting unemployment and other federal aid for laid off workers and freelancers.

Makers across the nation are struggling to stay afloat in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the quarantine scene continues to create a financial nightmare for all.

Undocumented folks, service workers, artists, creatives, and other self-employed 1099ers have been among the hardest hit, many banding together in community-led and supported relief efforts since Uncle Sam has yet to tell us where the bag—in this case, government relief—is at for real.

And then, good-ish (?) news was finally handed down from Capitol Hill to the tune of $2.2 trillion dollars.

The COVID-relief package, announced last week while we were sleeping, says that Americans with Social Security numbers can expect direct cash payments to hit their bank accounts in a few weeks as part of a budget-sweeping temporary emergency fund that, essentially, floods federal money into the economy. The CARES Act, which provides unemployment for freelancers and gig workers in addition to $1200 “stimulus” checks, is the largest federally funded relief package in the history of the U.S.—the fund outspends current federal budgets for defense and scientific research.

The bill rightfully earned its critics. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York criticized Trump and Republicans for not doing enough to protect American citizen’s welfare, and, to be fair, it does appear the government’s response is yet another attempt at making trickle down economics work—during a deadly global pandemic, no less.

Nevertheless, they persisted, and Congress and President Donald J. Trump finally agreed on the CARES Act, a U.S. relief plan that is supposed to cushion the economic effect of COVID-19 and slow the gears of disaster for companies and shareholders, with a little something for the freelancers and makers too. So, are you a gig worker wondering what’s good with your government aid? A freelancer who wants to know how to apply for unemployment? Read on. We got you.

I’m hearing a lot about these $1200 stimulus checks. What kind of payment is this?

In technical terms this is an advanced payment on a refundable credit. “Refundable tax credit” just means that you can receive the money regardless of your tax liability. Didn’t owe any taxes this year? You’ll still get the $1200 check (or $2400 check for couples who have filed their taxes jointly).

Is this income taxed?

Nope! Free bands.

What if I’m a student, can I get a stimulus check?

It depends. If anyone claims you as a dependent you cannot receive this, if you claim yourself you may be eligible.

Will freelancers and gig workers get a stimlus check?

Yes, as long as you have a Social Security number, filed either your 2018 or 2019 taxes, and don't exceed the income cap , you will receive a $1200 stimulus payment via either check or direct deposit—whichever the IRS has access to!

How can I update my banking information to receive my stimulus check?

Most people will receive their economic impact checks through the information they gave the IRS with their last filed tax return. If the IRS does not have access to your preferred bank account and you would like a direct deposit, an online portal where you may enter your banking information is forthcoming, but not here yet. Stay posted to the IRS website for more information. The IRS will update with more information as it becomes available.

Is there an income cap for receiving this tax credit?

Yes. If your adjusted gross income is $99,000 or more as a single filer or $198,000 as a married couple filing jointly, you aren’t eligible for a stimulus check. The amount of the stimulus checks also decrease incrementally for single filers who make $75,000 or more.

What is adjusted gross income?

It’s all the money you report as income from employment, or gig work minus contributions to things like your 401(k), or any “above the line” deductions. You will need to report your adjusted gross income (AGI) when you fill out the unemployment application. This is especially relevant for freelancers, because most departments of labor have access to income information if the wages come from salaried jobs, but not 1099 wages.

Do I have to file a tax return to receive the checks?

Yes, you need to have filed a tax return for either 2018 or 2019. The checks will be directly deposited into your bank account or mailed to your address via the information provided through the IRS. Previously, it was thought that one could receive a payment without filing a tax return, but now the IRS says you will need to file a simple tax return in order to receive the stimulus check. This stimulus payment will go wherever your tax refund typically goes.

When will my payment arrive?

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says that he expects most Americans will get their payments by April 17th. File your taxes now for 2018 and 2019 if you haven’t already.

How does the CARES Act affect unemployment insurance benefits?

The CARES Act notably offers unemployment insurance benefits to previously ineligible groups, such as gig workers and freelancers. It also extends new unemployment insurance claims and existing state benefits by 13 weeks, and adds an extra $600 a week to benefits, for up to four months.

How do I apply for unemployment?

You will need to apply via your state’s Department of Labor. This can typically be done via an online application. According to the recently passed government stimulus package, freelancers and gig workers are now eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. While the rules are different in each state, this typically means that freelancers and other gig workers will have to verify their wages to their state’s Department of Labor. This can be done with 1099s, tip ledgers, etc. However, if you make tips be sure your employer includes your tip amount in your reported income or tips won’t be counted towards your eligibility for unemployment benefits. If you are a freelancer who has been denied eligibility, or someone previously ineligible for any other reason, you may apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits under the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program. That information should be available on your state’s Department of Labor website, where you will have to verify the assistance is available to you.

How much money will I get thanks to unemployment insurance benefits?

Amounts will vary state to state. On average, unemployment insurance benefits replace about 40-45% of an applicant’s income. In New York, the weekly minimum you can receive is $104, and the maximum is $504. This will increase with the additional $600 provided by the CARES Act. The amount you receive is based on your reported wages (and your state’s rules), but everyone who is approved for either state unemployment insurance benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will receive the state-determined benefit amount plus an additional $600.

Have unemployment benefits been extended? For how long?

Unemployment insurance benefits typically last for 26 weeks. But because we are in a state of crisis, unemployment benefits have been extended for 13 weeks—meaning that those receiving benefits are eligible for payments up to 39 Weeks.

I am already receiving unemployment insurance benefits. What do I do now?

Nothing. There’s no need to worry or change anything if you were already approved for unemployment benefits prior to the COVID-19 crisis. You can just continue to certify your information weekly and you will receive the additional $600 for up to four months as well as the 39 weeks of coverage, if needed.

What If I’m a recent graduate or someone who hasn’t been employed full time but cannot find a job because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

You are likely not eligible for unemployment, however you should still apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. If you have any prior employment at all, it is worth it to give applying a shot.

What if I am not usually able to get unemployment benefits or have exhausted my benefits?

Now’s the time to apply (or re-apply). If you have previously been denied or ineligible due to self-employment or gig-work, apply. If you were previously receiving unemployment benefits, and those benefits became exhausted sometime after July 1, 2019, re-apply. It could turn out you’re eligible now—both because unemployment insurance benefits have been extended to include freelancers, and because the length of time one is eligible to receive benefits have been extended by 13 weeks.

What if I don’t get unemployment insurance?

You should apply to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in your state.

$600 per week is more than I made at my previous jobs. Will I still receive these additional benefits?

Yes, as long as you are approved for either regular unemployment insurance benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance you will receive the additional $600 per week no matter what your prior income was.

Are unemployment benefits taxable income?

Yes, unemployment benefits are taxable income and the additional $600 may make you ineligible for Medicaid or SNAP in your state. Please verify with your local administrations for how this extra cash could affect your food security or healthcare access.

What if I had jobs lined up which I lost due to COVID-19?

You are eligible for unemployment assistance with the proper documentation.

What will I need to apply for unemployment benefits?

This may vary state to state, but you will always need the proper pay documentation. If you cannot document your pay you will not be eligible benefits. You will need information about your wages (for freelancers, this typically means 1099s) and your employer(s) contact information.

How much money should I have previously made to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits?

Amounts will vary state to state, but the need to provide basic wage documentation and for what time periods will hold true across the board. For example, in New York, wages must equal at least $2,600 dollars in each of the calendar quarters included in your base period.

What’s a base period?

In New York, a “base period” is the calendar year prior to the period you submitted an unemployment insurance claim. Base periods are broken into four “quarters” that correspond to the fiscal quarters of the fiscal year.

This is a developing story. Updates may be forthcoming.

📥  Supernews.

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