Meet Kim Gilmour, Owner of FisheyeCeramics, a ceramic design studio on Main Street in Catskill and freelance audiobook producer. COVID-19 had an immediate detrimental impact on her work and she applied for unemployment the moment freelancers were able to. We asked her to share her experiences in applying and filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) in hopes it would help other freelancers like her. Here’s what she said…
When did you start feeling the downturn in response to the crisis? What were your first steps?
I felt the downturn as soon as COVID-19 came into discussion in March. It was a horrible month. Once I found out freelancers were included in the CARES Act, I applied immediately.
Did you do some research on whether you’d qualify for unemployment? Where did you look?
I immediately went on applied to see what would happen. I did find some information on the NYS unemployment site that was helpful. I applied for unemployment about 15-20 years ago, so I know how the system works to a certain degree.
What was the application process like and what materials did you need handy?
I applied right online and had no problems. Since I applied fairly early, I had to apply for regular unemployment and at the time, the messaging about PUA wasn’t clear but I went ahead anyway. After filing the application, I got a response to call to complete it. It took three days of nonstop calling, hitting redial over and over again, and finally I did get through within 2-3 days. The agent asked additional questions and again, was unclear on how exactly the PUA worked. She instructed me to go online and claim benefits on a weekly basis. I know that weeks after I applied, there was a specific PUA application which made things easier for those who are self-employed, but I was fortunate it worked out for me so early on.
In terms of materials, I needed to fax them my 1099 and I also faxed them my 2019 tax returns, though not requested. A lot of what they ask you via application/phone isn’t proved via documentation, they take your answers in good faith.
I would rate the system a 4-5 out of 10.
Did you receive your benefits yet? Have you faced any issues in doing so?
During the first week of April, close to a month later, I received two $600 deposits. They came a week and a half apart. They didn’t send me any paperwork about what I would be getting or when. I still haven’t gotten anything other than those two checks. My understanding is that I will be getting retroactive checks to cover the weeks missed. I think a lot of us will be getting lump sum checks.
Have you applied for other assistance from the CARES act?
I did apply for the EIDL right off the bat and I received $1,000.
Do you see things going back to “normal” for you/your business?
Nothing is going to be the same. Ceramics is not a necessary business and it’s a luxury expense for some people. People need dishes and bowls, but do they really? Fortunately a lot of sales are online, so I don’t rely on having a physical space but I think its going to be very different. A lot of people are going to reinvent their businesses, if they haven’t already.
Any other advice for our readers?
A lot of people have said they’re not applying for benefits because they heard it takes so long. Have patience. Yes, it’s frustrating and may take a while but it will be worth it. If the funds are there for us, you should do everything you can to get to them. In long run, it will be better for you. It’s worth calling your bank too regarding grants/loans, etc. you never know what kind of options they have for you.
If you are a freelancer and would like to share your unemployment experience, please email Gabby Fisher, ACE Digital Marketing Manager.