Meet Barbara Price, an artist and freelance textbook editor with a number of large publishing clients. Right before the pandemic and shutdown, she had a couple of new contracts pending for work, which would’ve satisfied her income for the remainder of the year. Once businesses started closing, she couldn’t get in touch with anybody about the contracts and has been out of work since. We asked Barbara to share her experience filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) because she ran into quite the interesting dilemma that may impact other freelancers. Here’s what she had to say…
When did you first apply for benefits? What was the initial process like?
I applied online right off the bat on April 2nd. At that time, the first step for freelancers was to apply for traditional unemployment insurance, get rejected, and THEN apply for PUA (they’ve since streamlined this process, and freelancers now apply in one step). In early May, I got an email from the Department of Labor (DOL) asking me to fill out another questionnaire. I responded to them immediately.
But you didn’t get any benefits…what went wrong?
Whenever there was a question about my “employer,” I answered that I had “no employer,” assuming that I would eventually get to part of the questionnaire designated for freelancers and business owners. It turns out there wasn’t a section for that. I got denied benefits because I’d indicated that I did not have an employer.
According to the DOL, if you are self-employed, you ARE technically employed by somebody – yourself. You should answer questions about “your employer” as if YOU are your employer, otherwise you will get rejected!
My husband applied after me, so we were sure we didn’t make the same mistake twice. He applied in late April (he had to send his 2019 taxes in) and we are awaiting payment.
Is the DOL doing appeals for people who were denied and/or made a mistake on the application?
They are not doing appeals so there’s not even a way I can fight this issue right now, which leaves me without funds at the moment. I sent a message to my assemblywoman who called me and put me on an expedited list to talk to someone from the DOL and I still haven’t heard back. I tried sending a message to the DOL, but again, haven’t heard anything. (Note to readers: If you were denied, please click here for more information about denial/appeals.)
Did you apply for any other benefits/loans, etc. through the CARES Act?
Yes, I applied and received $1,000 from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.
Any final thoughts for our readers?
I remain hopeful. I’m using this time for self actualization; to think about what I really want, how I want my life to look, and what’s really important to me. Networking is different now but making me notice people that think like I think. I see value in connecting with them and lifting each other up.