yes, thank you so much, the bill did pass and was signed yesterday! You do have to apply/check eligibility first via your state and the states have not yet figured out the process, yet, or at least my state hasn't. They said they don't have an answer yet but to fill out the form as best you can. That said, I am waiting before filing it out as I don't have an "employer" as the form now stands per se, I work pretty much full-time on Upwork. I will post what my state advises--they said they are looking into it.
On another note, here is another resource for freelancers:
I, too, notice that the New York State form asks you for the name and address of an employer. However, like you, I am one who works exclusively on Upwork, I am not sure how to proceed. Suggestions would be most welcome. Thanks.
I think the state's are scrambling to figure it out. My state says they will advise as soon as they can but they are swamped. I also asked Upwork in another forum on how they will handle if people list Upwork as their employer, since we can't usually do that for unemployment or for the IRS but with the expanded inclusion of gig workers and freelancers as part of the stimulus plan, I don't know what the policy will be or if/how we will be covered and how we apply if our contract/project was cancelled or reduced due to COVID.
I will post update if Upwork responds to me or my state issues any guidelines.
In case other Upworkers are wondering about whether they qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, the following outlines the legal definitions of telework and the way to self certify.
Upworkers do not "telework," and the lawmakers have designed a bill that does include us. Simply put, finding work online and teleworking are two legally distinct processes as noted by the government.
In the same way the terms "freelancer" and "self employed" are defined legally by whether you file your taxes with a 1040 Schedule C, the term "telework" is defined legally in the Telwork Enhancement Act and is outlined by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management at
"The Telework Enhancement Act defines telework or teleworking as a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities of such employee's position, and other authorized activities, from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work. In practice, telework is a work arrangement that allows an employee to perform work, during any part of regular, paid hours, at an approved alternative worksite (e.g. home or telework center)."
Since upwork independent contractors are not employees working from an approved worksite during regular, paid hours, you qualify for Pandemic unemployment insurance as a gig worker, again, as defined by your filing for taxes using a 1099.
To say this differently, Upworkers find work online, but they do not telework. They are gig workers that use online resources to find work, but they do not telework. The lawmakers understood that clients worldwide are impacted and that our income has plummeted, sometimes to zero. That is why they used a legal term in the CARES act.
NOW--THE BAD NEWS!!!!!!!!
Please note: the problem is not whether you qualify--you do--the problem is how you will "self certify" your earnings and whether that self certification will be accepted.
If you listed your earnings on your 1040 for 2019 or for 2020, you will be fine. If your state requires a 2020 schedule C, your 2019 earnings will not suffice, and ou will need to file your 2020 taxes and do so using your schedule C.
However, if you did not report your earnings, you will have screwed yourself because unlike many other online platforms that operate on the backs of gig workers, neither Upwork nor its workers issue workers a 1099, which is a crock of shot.
You will need your schedule C.
I'm happy to report that the NYS now allows you to file online for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) via their Dept. Of Labor (DOL) website.
There is a simple step by step form to fill out. It asks you to state your self-employment income from your latest filed tax return (which could be 2018, I guess, if you haven't filed one for 2019).
To access the form sign into the DOL website: labor.ny.gov/signin and look for "My online forms". One of these (see LHS) will be the form for PUA.
I hope this helps someone in NYS.
The National Writer's Union Website has put up a page explaining the CARES Act Pandemic Unemployment for freelancers.
For writers, here's what they suggest:
Applicants will have 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:
Until other criteria is established, the circumstance that will most closely apply to most freelance writers (including those who are still working part-time, but have less work) would probably be the bolded criterion above, which in the CARES Act reads: “(ii) the individual has to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID–19.” We recommend being as specific as possible about the loss of work and income, and why that loss was a direct result of the outbreak – how many jobs/how much you were earning previously, when those jobs/income fell off, what triggered that fall-off (e.g. a shelter-in-place order, the closure of certain publications, declarations of emergency in certain states), and how much income/how many jobs you have lost.
The article concludes with:
Because state agencies will not have freelance writers’ wage records, writers should collect, to the extent possible, documentation of their earnings to submit with their application or at a later stage. Documentation could include bank statements, copies of checks, 1099s, or other materials.
I expect to provide the weekly timesheets from my contract that has been put on hold and the message from the client explaining the situation. But from what I understand, each state will interpret the Department of Labor guidelines in its own way.
Hope this helps!
The official document that I found on the NYS DOL online form for filing PUA rewrites the last three items (compared to the National Writers Union link sent by Judith) as follows:
I have emphasized (in bold) the parts that are changed from the news article. I assume that these will be true for all other states, too.
My question for freelancers on Upwork is: Which of the two criteria
applies to a freelancer who only works on Upwork and works out of one's home. I guess the second criterion does not apply and so we are left with only the first one. Is it sufficient to show that many of one's contracts are stopped or on "pause"? Or that the volume of appropriate jobs for one's skills have died down? Any way to quantify that?
Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated.
Tiffany, It's been passed and the applications are live now. I hope upwork posts an info page to help guide all of us. Is anything like that posted yet? We all need some help and this is a great central resource.
Upwork won't likely respond since we don't technically work for them, but I did ask them on another forum and their response is earlier on this thread.
You have to check with your state's UI website. Most are overwhelmed right now and have not been abe to update the application form yet to include freelancers, gig workers, self-employed.
Some state's have updated their websites, but most are still in process and say will be complete mid-month. You will be able to file a that time and back date your application. No point submitting now as you will likely fill it out wrong since the self employed/freelancer/gig category is new/not there. You cannot list Upwork as your employer, similar to how you can't on your Tax Return. Most people in this category submit as self employed or small biz owner.
There are also small biz loans available via banks and other resouces and grants--a couple are listed in this thread.
New York's application appears to have been updated to be able to submit. My state's hasn't yet but I will post on how to complete it when it is up and running.
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