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COVID-19 Stimulus Package

Active Member
Lisa H Member Since: Apr 13, 2018
1 of 30

I realize the Stimulus Package was just announced and the details have to be worked out with various government agencies, but the word is that contractors and gig workers will be covered for unemployment, which isn't typically the case and not sure how one would even qualify or prove their status.  Any thoughts on how Upworkers may fit into this and would we qualify since the employer in normal circoumstances must pay into the system in order for you to collect which isn't the case here on Upwork. If a client suspended a contract or reduced the hours, would that be cause and would there be a way to apply or are we still not covered and considered self employed/unclear work status?

As info is available, if anyone has thoughts or Upwork knows how this will work, please feel free to add comments to this post.

Active Member
Lisa H Member Since: Apr 13, 2018
2 of 30

Gig workers, freelancers, self-employed are eligible

In an unprecedented move, the stimulus bill expands unemployment protections to gig workers, freelancers and self-employed individuals, who typically don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

Seth Harris, former Deputy U.S. Secretary of Labor, describes this aspect of the stimulus package as a “gigantic change,” but notes that it could be complicated to execute.

“It will be harder [to calculate] because these workers don’t have a W-2 or an average weekly wage,” Harris says. “These folks have income that varies dramatically from week to week or month to month.”

It’s not clear yet how state benefits will be calculated for these workers; unemployment is traditionally calculated as a percentage of weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount.  

Community Guru
Christine A Member Since: May 4, 2016
3 of 30

In the UK, they've announced that "regular" workers who've been laid off will get 80% of their salaries, but the self-employed are only getting £95/week. (For context, even a tiny studio flat in London costs upwards of £1,000/month to rent.) It seems to me that it would be pretty easy to be fair to us - just look at our tax returns for the past year and calculate our average weekly earnings based on that. 


I hope that freelancers in other countries are treated more fairly. But if you have a claim, I'd get in there sooner rather than later; I imagine that it'll take quite awhile to sort everything out and get payments into the hands of those will will need it most.

Active Member
Lisa H Member Since: Apr 13, 2018
4 of 30

Hi Christine, thanks for your reply and sharing how unemployement is being handled in the U.K. for self-employed. Smiley Happy The inclusion of self-employed and gig workers here in the U.S. for unemployment is something new and the details and forms for applying are evolving and handled state by state.


As of today, most state's are telling people to go ahead and apply and complete info "as best you can" so we will see. 


Good luck to all of us gig workers and I will continue to add info I receive for U.S. workers.


Active Member
Lisa H Member Since: Apr 13, 2018
5 of 30


Are gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors covered in the bill?

Yes, self-employed people would be newly eligible for unemployment benefits.

Benefit amounts would be calculated based on previous income, using a formula from the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, according to a congressional aide.

Self-employed workers would also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the federal government.

Active Member
Lisa H Member Since: Apr 13, 2018
6 of 30

my state said to please wait a bit longer as they are adapting the application form for this category--we will have to wait to see what info they require to process.

Ace Contributor
Nilotpal M Member Since: Feb 25, 2018
7 of 30
I am happy to report that at least my state, New York, has now posted
guidance on how self-employed people can complete the online unemployment

Using this guidance, I was able to get past the "roadblock" of information
about former employer. Maybe this is helpful for freelancers in other

After that, it was quite easy. However, I still have to call an agent to
complete the process. Not sure why, but let's see how that goes.
Active Member
John B Member Since: Apr 3, 2020
8 of 30

Playing it Forward:


Recent Federal legislation offers direct cash support for businesses, especially small businesses, who are trying to maintain their staffs in the face of the corona virus. I want to ensure you are aware of two programs that were announced this week.


Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19


The IRS on Tuesday issued a new form and instructions for employers to use to obtain advance payments of three tax credits that were created to help businesses cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Employers may file new Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19, to obtain advances of employment taxes that are refundable as a result of the new tax credits: the employee retention credit, the qualified sick leave credit, and the qualified family leave wages credit. The qualified sick leave credit and the qualified family leave wages credit were enacted by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, P.L. 116-127. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136, created the employee retention credit and provided for advance repayment of the first two credits. The IRS also issued guidance on the employee retention credit.


Qualifying employers must fall into one of two categories:


  1. The employer’s business is fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter;
  2. The employer’s gross receipts are below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer’s gross receipts go above 80% of a comparable quarter in 2019, the employer no longer qualifies after the end of that quarter.

Here are the links to the form and the instruction




Paycheck Protection Program


The Small Business Administration initiated a program that grants low interest loans through normal lending channels. Loan payments are deferred for 6 months and in many cases completely forgiven if:


• The loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the 8-week period after the loan is made; and,

• Employee and compensation levels are maintained.


There are addition loans and debt relief options available to small businesses. Check out: 


I hope you can take advantage of one or both programs to help your business stay afloat in these very challenging times. From me to you and your employees, we wish you the best and stay safe.

Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
9 of 30

The bill hasn't even passed yet, so there's no point in trying to guess at how it's going to work if and when it becomes law. 

Active Member
Judith W M Member Since: Jul 2, 2019
10 of 30

The bill has passed, and according to the National Employment Law Project, freelancers will be entitled to unemployment under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provision:




Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)


Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides emergency unemployment assistance to workers who are left out of regular state UI or who have exhausted their state UI benefits (including any Extended Benefits that might become available in the future). Up to 39 weeks of PUA are available to workers who are immediately eligible to receive PUA.

The program will expire on December 31, 2020, unless otherwise extended.


Importantly, this program will provide income support to many workers who are shut out of the state UI systems in this country. In fact, workers who are eligible for state UI are not eligible for the PUA program.


Those eligible for PUA include self-employed workers, including independent contractors, freelancers, workers seeking part-time work, and workers who do not have a long-enough work history to qualify for state UI benefits.


(Note that in most states, however, “gig” workers should qualify for regular UI because of the broad definitions of employment in so many state UI laws and should be encouraged and supported in applying for regular UI. States should be encouraged to streamline their applications and to request pay data in bulk from major companies. In states that have passed formal exemptions from UI for transportation network company drivers or app-based workers, PUA will provide crucial benefits.)


Applicants will need to provide self-certification that they are (1) partially or fully unemployed, OR (2) unable and unavailable to work because of one of the following circumstances:


  • They have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of it and are seeking diagnosis;
  • A member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • They are providing care for someone diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • They are providing care for a child or other household member who can’t attend school or work because it is closed due to COVID-19;
  • They are quarantined or have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  • They were scheduled to start employment and do not have a job or cannot reach their place of employment as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak;
  • They have become the breadwinner for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • They had to quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Their place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • They meet other criteria established by the Secretary of Labor.

Workers are not eligible for PUA if they can either telework with pay or are receiving paid sick days or paid leave. Unfortunately, workers must be authorized to work to be eligible for PUA, meaning that undocumented workers will not qualify.


The PUA program will run from January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Workers will be eligible for retroactive benefits and can access benefits for a maximum of 39 weeks, including any weeks for which the person received regular UI. But eligibility will sunset on December 31, 2020 absent any extensions.


PUA benefits are calculated the same way as they are for the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance program under the Stafford Act, which is the model for the PUA program. PUA will have a minimum benefit that is equal to one-half the state’s average weekly UI benefit (about $190 per week).


Iowa is the only state I could find  with a page for submitting  Pandemic Unemployment Assistance prof of income, but even they are asking people to wait until the benefits are available..