, a coronavirus response package, freelancers and self-employed people will qualify for unemployment benefits.
While intentions are good, the CARES Act leaves artists in a precarious position. As CNBC
, there’s mass confusion over how exactly we are to go about proving we are entitled to unemployment benefits under the CARES Act. That’s because most states’ unemployment administrations haven’t had time to set up procedures for processing unemployment claims from the self-employed. While a laid-off worker generally needs to provide past W-2s to claim unemployment benefits, freelancers and gig economy workers have issues with documentation.
How do I apply for unemployment?
You'll need to go through your state's unemployment benefits program. You can find information about how to apply in your state
What information will I need?
This one is a bit tricky. If you have any jobs where you are paid as an employee on a W2, your state's labor department will already have those records. Normally, they use those to determine unemployment payments. But states aren't used to calculating unemployment for freelancers and are figuring things out as they go. My own state's (Maryland) Department of Labor, couldn't tell me exactly what documentation freelancers will need and is not accepting Freelance claims at this time. I was told that most likely, you'll need to submit your tax returns, so make sure you have your last few handy.
File 2019 taxes right away, even if you haven't filed for a few years.
There are reports of
long call wait times
and website crashes, so have all your information ready to go. This also includes basic personal information like your social security number, date of birth, address and some form of state-issued ID, as well as detailed information about your lost work.
Keep documenting your needs, because further relief programs are on the way. Don't lose hope, there are so many artists, organizations and activists fighting hard to make sure that individual artistians and art organizations are included in the economic resource allocation and recovery.