Independents Still Waiting For Unemployment Help

WASHINGTON (AP) – Like many Americans locked up in the coronavirus pandemic, Jeff Kardesch of Austin, Texas spends a lot of time on social media. He does not have idle chats with friends. Kardesch is in a hurry to know when she will receive the unemployment assistance she needs.

His work as an independent film and commercial producer was dashed when Austin canceled the annual South by Southwest festival in early March. Since then he has had no other job.


However, since Kardesch is his own employer, it is a headache for him to get unemployment help, or even to know when it will be given. A new federal assistance program has included self-employed workers like himself for the first time on unemployment benefits. However, Texas, like most states, has had to establish a new system to process these new grant applications and deliver the money.

Kardesch, 23, submitted her application in late March. They quickly rejected it. He introduced it again. No luck.

“It is frustrating,” Kardesch said. “Nothing has worked to date. The most I can do is just submit the application, have it rejected and stay in the system. ”

The number of Americans applying for unemployment assistance is impressive: More than 4.4 million last week and 26 million in five weeks since the coronavirus paralyzed much of the nation’s economy. It is easily the worst job loss streak in US history. Economists say the layoffs could boost the unemployment rate to 20%, which would be its worst level since the Great Depression.

But there are many more requests to come, including those from millions of independent contractors and platform workers. Most states have not begun to approve requests from these groups.

The Labor Department estimates that 10.6 million Americans work as contractors, which means that their employment is for a limited time and they receive few benefits, if any. Another 16 million are independent workers. And maybe 1.5 million are platform workers, like Uber drivers, although most do it as a second job.

Even if a quarter of them ask for the subsidy. They will drive up new applications, although it’s hard to pin down a number. Kardesch and others who have already applied for the subsidy and been rejected will not be included in the statistics as new applications once Texas begins approving them.

The delay is because states have on file conventional workers who receive W-2 forms and whose employers paid unemployment taxes. However, the process is more complicated for contractors and other freelancers, who typically receive 1099 forms. State agencies need additional documentation and their systems are not configured to process it.

On Wednesday, the Texas Workforce Commission said it had begun processing requests from independent workers and reconsidering those that were rejected. Other states are not ready yet. Ohio says it will do so until mid-May. California says it will begin accepting applications next week. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts just started doing it.