Applying for Unemployment Insurance as a Freelancer
Freelancers, independent contractors, and self-employed people are eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) passed in the federal stimulus package. Individuals who are not otherwise eligible for benefits and are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of the COVID-19 public health emergency may be eligible for PUA.
Frequently Asked Questions
· How do I apply for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?
o You must apply for regular unemployment insurance through your state and be determined ineligible first to apply for the PUA. The NYS DOL has put together a Guidance for Self-Employed to how to answer the questions in the application, there is also a Benefit Flowchart.
Loans, Grants, & Small Business Relief
· The New York City Department of Small Business Services has launched programs to help small businesses during the COVID crisis. Eligibility and benefits vary by business size and other factors.
· Created through the federal stimulus package, the US Small Business Administration (SBA) offers the self-employed and small business owners a $10,000 advance on an Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) that does not have to be paid back, even if the borrower does not qualify for an SBA loan. The program provides loans up to $200,000. Sole proprietors, ESOPs, cooperatives, businesses with no more than 500 employees and tribal small business concerns can apply. Under the EIDL program, administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, applicants will not have to submit a tax return and will be evaluated based on their credit score. The SBA will provide the funding within three days of a successfully completed application as an advance payment.
· SBA has also created a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. This program is for any small business with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons), private non-profit organization or 501(c)(19) veterans organizations affected by coronavirus/COVID-19.
· The Freelancers Union has launched a new Freelancers Relief Fund that will offer financial assistance of up to $1,000 per freelance household to cover lost income and essential expenses not covered by government relief programs.
· Individuals can request contributions from individuals via Lost My Gig’s website which is helping freelancers and artists recoup the costs of lost work due to COVID-19.
· Here is an Google Doc extensive list of public and private Resources for Small Businesses & Vendors from the United for Small Businss organization including financial support, legal support, new government rules, and more.
· The Freelance Isn’t Free Act requires that payments are made in full and on time. If you have not been paid for projects that you signed a contract for, or if you have ongoing questions about payment for gigs and projects, you can contact the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection by email at email@example.com.
· You can learn about and apply for private grants and mutual aid resources throughout the nation for freelancers, artists, and gig-workers (including for specific arts and disciplines) at:
You and your family have many low cost, quality health insurance options available through the New York State Individual Marketplace. Recent changes to your income could make you eligible for Medicaid even if you were not previously eligible.
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are community health centers that can address many of your primary healthcare needs so that you don’t ne. You can find other FQHCs throught NYC and the country by visiting ake Medicaid, Medicare, and some private insurance, as well as patients who do not have health insurance. Patients without insurance may be charged a modest fee on a sliding scale based upon need.
GHPEDC’s sister non-profit, Urban Health Plan, is a Bronx-based network of FQHCs in the South Bronx, Harlem and Corona, Queens.
You can find other FQHCs throughout NYC and the country by visiting the federal Bureau of Primary Health Care and scrolling down to "Find a Health Center" at the bottom of the page. NOTE: During the Covid-19 pandemic many FQHC’s have reduced clinic hours and have moved some of their treatment to “Tele-Health” visits, so patients do not have to come into the site. Check each FQHC's website for further info.
If you need help with the cost of medications, you may qualify for financial assistance from NeedyMeds.
If you are an employee who falls ill due to COVID-19, you may qualify for emergency paid sick leave under New York State and New York City law. Currently, independent contractors and freelancers do not have access to this benefit.
New York State has launched a COVID-19 mental health hotline. For free emotional support, consultation and referral to a provider, you can call 1-844-863-9314. NYC Well is also available for individuals looking to receive immediate or ongoing assistance.
Alcoholics Anonymous Inter-Group of New York (AA) meetings are continuing online.
If you are struggling with drug addiction in the South Bronx, St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction is open and has a special page for sex, drug use and mental health , etc issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. St. Ann's can be reached at (718) 585 – 5544, 886 Westchester Ave, Bronx NY (3 blocks east of the Longwood/Prospect/Westchester intersection).
Here is a list of additional Health & Mental Health Resources, including resources that focus specifically on theater, dance, music, fine arts, etc.
· The federal COVID-19 stimulus program provides that each New Yorker making up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income will receive a one-time payment of $1,200, plus $500 per dependent minor child, which should be automatically direct deposited or mailed to you in April. The amount will be phased out for income between $75,000 and $99,000, based on your 2018 adjusted gross income. Though the 2019 tax filing deadline is deferred until July 15 without penalty, if you did not file a 2018 tax return, you must file a 2019 tax return before you receive the cash payment. More info at the Internal Revenue Service Coronavirus Tax Relief and Economic Impact Payments page.
· New York City residents needing additional cash assistance can visit the New York City Human Resources Administration ACCESS HRA to apply for Family Assistance (FA) and Safety Net Assistance (SNA), Fair Fares, SNAP (food stamps) etc.
· There is a moratorium on residential evictions in New York State, now extended until May 1, 2021.
· If you are a New York City resident who is having difficulty paying your rent, you may qualify for a rental assistance program. You can learn more about NYC Rental Assistance Programs and also call the Met Council on Housing’s Tenant Hotline at 212-979-0611 to receive individual advice and recommendations.
· There is a moratorium on utility shut-offs in New York State until further notice.
· If you are having difficulty paying your electric and heating bills, you may qualify for emergency assistance program under the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).
· Comcast is currently offering two months of free internet to certain low-income residents impacted by COVID-19.
· For low-income New Yorkers, Lifeline offers up to $9.25 per month off of your phone bill.
· Your credit card company may be able to offer some payment assistance. Bankrate.com has a page with a brief rundown of what might be available.
· If you anticipate difficulty paying a utility bill, you can contact your provider to see if they offer a payment deferral plan.
· Grab and Go Meals Expanding for All New Yorkers: In this time of historic high unemployment, more New Yorkers are experiencing food insecurity for the first time. So the City will be expanding “grab and go” meals for all New Yorkers. No one will be turned away. Anyone who shows up will be able pick up three meals. The hours are 7:30 - 11:30 am for families and children, 11:30 - 1:30 for adults. Details are on the NYC Dept of Education website, or text “NYCFOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877.
· If you need emergency food assistance, check these two City of NY websites:
· To apply for SNAP (food stamp) benefits, you can visit ACCESS HRA.
Student & Medical Debt
· Federal Student Loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for 60 days. You may also suspend payments entirely for two months without accruing interest. You can learn more at studentaid.gov.
· There is a hold on all collection of medical and student debt to the State of New York through April 15, 2020, which includes suspension of accrued interest. The NYS Debt Collection Suspension page has more information.
· As of now, other forms of medical debt and student loans must be paid as usual, but you can contact your loan provider to see if they have policies in place to provide relief.
· For general civil matters, you can contact Legal Aid NYC.
· For specific matters related to the arts, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts provides free or low-cost legal services. You can learn about their services at the website or call 212-319-2787.
· Lawyers for Good Government are launching a program to provide pro bono legal clinics for small businesses.
Many thanks to the Freelancers Union, New York Legal Services and the Offices of Council Member Rafael Salamanca and Council Member Brad Lander for helping to compile much of this information.