Updated: Aug 13, 2020
Self-employed individuals who've lost significant income due to the COVID-19 pandemic may now qualify for their state's unemployment benefits.
Unemployment assistance isn't usually available for this demographic - which includes the majority of photographers, videographers, "gig-economy" workers, and many other creative professionals.
Fortunately, most states have recently expanded their benefits to cover independent contractors and self-employed individuals through the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program, which is funded by FEMA.
Additionally, the stimulus package passed by Congress last week adds another $600 per week for everyone who receives unemployment benefits through their state, including the self-employed.
If you are wondering how to navigate the bureaucratic system, here are a few resources:
First, you can use this federal website to get information about your state's program for administering COVID-19 economic relief and to get a general idea of whether you qualify.
If you're in Texas, you must first apply for regular unemployment assistance through the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). Once you're denied due to self-employment, you will qualify for the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program.
Since the Texas Workforce Commission is still in the process of implementing the DUA and the stimulus bill, they will notify all applicants via email notification about the next steps when they are ready (including those who were denied initially).
The best course of action is to apply immediately because your benefits will be calculated based on the date of your application.
News about the record $2 trillion dollar stimulus bill (a.k.a. HR 748) has led to questions about its effect on the claims process. As of right now, the Texas Workforce Commission website reads:
"TWC is currently unable to address the implementation of HR 748 and how it will affect unemployment benefits. TWC staff cannot answer any questions regarding the details of this bill and its effect on anyone’s claim at this time."
Since both the federal and state assistance programs will be administered by TWC regardless of how they are funded, you should go ahead and apply immediately at this link.
If you've already gone through this process, please tell us about your experience in the comments.