Meet Jessica Shattuck, Owner of The Shop on 7 in Latham. Before salons were legally shutdown, Jess made the difficult decision to shut down her business for two weeks in order to protect the wellbeing of her clients and herself. She felt that despite losing the income, she had to do her part to stop the spread. A few days later, NYS shut down all salons. Unsure of how long this would last and if there would be any unemployment benefits for sole proprietors, anxiety ensued. Luckily, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was created to help people like her, but it took seven weeks of back and forth, answering questions incorrectly, and confusion before she received her first payment. Here’s her story…
When you did you first apply for unemployment and what was the process like?
I applied the second week of April, when I first realized sole proprietor’s could obtain some benefits. I spent one whole day filing and on the phone, I waited on the phone for seven hours. At this point, my employee who I had laid off when we shut down still hadn’t gotten through herself and she applied weeks before.
I finally got through and after giving some information, the person said my application was complete. Since I opened business Dec. 2018 and hadn’t yet filed for 2019, I got a letter saying I was approved for unemployment but for $0. Again, since I hadn’t filed for 2019 yet, my past four quarters showed I had no earnings. I filed my taxes the first weekend in April, right before applying, so I had to light a fire under my accountant to get those through and finally mailed, emailed, and faxed my 2019 taxes to the state.
What happened after you sent your 2019 taxes in?
One night, I got an email saying to apply for PUA. I started filling out the information and I felt like I was finally getting somewhere. I had gone six weeks with no pay at this point. It asked, “are you willing to work” and I said “yes,” then it asked if I was able to work, and I clicked “no” because legally, I could not work as salon owner. This caused it to automatically kick me out. Then, I got an email saying “since you’re not willing to work, you’re disqualified for PUA.” That obviously was not the case. There was no way to go back so I had to start the entire application process again and wait on the phone for additional hours.
Later on, I finally got call from unemployment and the way they were worded the questions was confusing and I kept answering incorrectly. The representative would say, are you sure you want to answer that way? The questions were ambiguous and I wasn’t answering the questions correctly to be approved. He was very helpful and patient. He finally told me I was approved, and I was coming up on seven weeks with no pay. He said I would receive back pay of unemployment and PUA in next 3-4 days, which I did receive in two separate waves. Finally.
People in my industry are resourceful and creative. We’re hustlers. We’ll bounce back.
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