Getting Your Freelancer Plague Dollars

By Bill Fink
I mentioned on the most recent BATW call that I’ve successfully (so far) navigated the process of procuring some government cash benefits due to the Pandemic. I’ve received a combination of California EDD “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” (PUA), Federal Pandemic Additional Compensation (PAC), and a Small Business Administration “forgivable loan”.
If you haven’t done so already, I’d advise diving in for a try, it’s been pretty simply so far. Even if you don’t need the money, apply anyway and donate the cash to one of many worthy area pandemic-related charities like the Oakland Fund (www.oaklandfund.org) or something from this extensive charity list from the SF Chronicle.
Who can apply for PUA?
From the EDD website:  (www.edd.ca.gov) If you are a business owner, independent contractor, self-employed worker, freelancer, or gig worker and only received a 1099 tax form last year, you are most likely eligible for PUA if you meet any of these criteria:
– You had a definite date to begin work, but the job is no longer available, or you could not reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19.
– You are unable to travel to your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
– You quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
– Your workplace is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
– You are unemployed, partially employed, or unable to work because COVID-19 has forced you to stop working.
How to Apply
Go to the UI Online page and create an account.  Then go to the File a New Claim page and fill out the questionnaire, which has a few contractor/freelancer/gig worker specific questions.
Tips from the EDD site on how to answer key questions for freelancers:
– On the Employment History screen when you supply your last employer information, select “No.”
– On the Availability Information page, answer question 7 with “No.”
– On the Disaster Information page, answer question 1a.3 with “You are an independent contractor.” If you got paid in cash, select “None of these options apply to me.”
Upon approval, every two weeks you’ll get an email or letter (based on your preferences) asking you to certify you’re still out of work and looking for employment. A pretty simple form—but don’t forget to fill it out, or they’ll stop paying you.
How much can you get?
California EDD says you can receive $167 per week for up to 39 weeks ($6513). The weeks can be backdated to February, and can last through the end of 2020.  They also say this $167 weekly number may be adjusted upward based on your stated income for 2019 in the application form, so the more you were making, the more you might receive. (I haven’t received any adjustment yet).
ALSO, there’s a bonus Pandemic Additional Compensation of $600 weekly via the Federal Gov’t, available for each of 17 weeks from March 29 to July 25 ($10,200). Not sure if this can also be backdated, but worth a shot.
I received a Bank of America debit card in the mail, which has been getting loaded bi-weekly with payments from EDD. I don’t recall choosing that as my payment option—so not sure if it’s the required method, or I just missed a page somewhere which would have enabled a paper check or direct deposit. But hey, it works so far.
Small Business Administration “loans” on hold
The Small Business Administration had been giving “forgivable” Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) (i.e. free money) up to $10,000 for small businesses affected by the pandemic, $1,000 per employee. I applied on behalf of my S Corp writing business and received a $2,000 autodeposit in my bank account. But looks like they stopped taking new applications on 4/15, offering now only to agricultural businesses. But based on the latest congressional wrangling, this could expand in the future, so keep your eyes on the news and that website for updates.
Good luck!

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5 Responses

  1. Thank you Bill for the excellent information.
    Just want to add that unemployment payments are taxable, so you may need to
    adjust quarterly estimated tax payments.
    Ginger

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