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Employment Resources

Unemployment Benefits for Independent Contractors

Updated April 27, 2020

  • A key provision in the CARES Act creates a temporary “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” program that extends unemployment benefits to those not traditionally eligible, including self-employed individuals.

April 20, 2020

  • Massachusetts launched its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance portal, which allows independent contractors such as Realtors® to apply for unemployment benefits. Click here to begin your application and for additional information: Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, or gig workers who have had to suspend their work because of COVID-19, or had a significant reduction in work, may be eligible for PUA. In cases where an individual has partial earnings, these earnings must be reported, and their weekly benefit amount may be reduced.

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides payment to workers not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, workers with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. In order to qualify for benefits you must certify that you are otherwise able and available to work, but are prevented from doing so because you have been directly effected by COVID-19 or you are an individual who works as an independent contractor and the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your usual work activities, and you have thereby been forced to stop performing those activities. (Click here for a full list of qualifications)

  • The amount of benefits you will receive is based on your previous income. PUA benefits may not be more than the state's maximum weekly benefit rate for regular unemployment benefits, which is $823.00 in Massachusetts. All individuals collecting PUA will also receive $600 per week from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), in addition to weekly benefits as calculated by the program.

  • Applicants will need to provide the following information:

    • Your social security number

    • If you are not a citizen of the United States, your A Number (USCIS Number)

    • Your residential address

    • Your mailing address (if different from residential address)

    • Your telephone number

    • Your email address

    • Your birth date

    • Your wage records for 2019, which includes:

      • 1099 forms

      • Pay stubs

      • Bank statements

    • The social security number(s) and date(s) of birth for your dependent child(ren)

    • If you want to use direct deposit for payment, your bank account and routing numbers

Updated April 16, 2020

  • Click here for a brief explanation of all available government benefit programs.

    • As of today (April 16, 2020):

      • Funding has run out for PPP and EIDL.

      • SBA is currently not accepting new applications.

      • NAR is advocating for additional funding.

April 10, 2020

  • Realtors® are eligible to apply for benefits under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This was one of three programs included in the CARES Act designed to extend benefits to independent contractors, sole proprietors, and small businesses in order to help mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19. For more information about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and how to apply for benefits, click here.

  • In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance announced that it plans to start accepting unemployment benefit applications by April 30.

  • The Department of Unemployment Assistance is currently creating a new system to handle independent contractor claims and expect it to be ready April 30.


March 31, 2020

Additional clarification: Real Estate has been deemed “essential” in my state, does this mean I’m ineligible for the new unemployment benefits for self-employed?​​


  • Even if a state deems real estate as an essential service, it does not necessarily mean that an individual is “working” and receiving compensation. Under the CARES Act, real estate professionals will be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits, under the new “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” temporary Federal-state program if they have been fully or partially unemployed due to an inability to work as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

  • However, if an individual is eligible to telework with pay, or has paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, they are not eligible for unemployment assistance. These new benefits will be carried out through agreements between each state and the federal government, where states will be fully reimbursed for the compensation paid out, plus administrative costs. Therefore, individuals should check with their state labor department or employment commission to determine eligibility details. For individual state and local labor services, including claims filing, see here. As guidance is issued from the Department of Labor on this question, updates will be provided.

Main page:


CARES Act summary:


March 30, 2020

  • On March 27, the Federal Government enacted the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act” which extends unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, or would otherwise not qualify for regular unemployment benefits. The unemployment benefits program created by this bill will be administered by the state of Massachusetts. However, the state is waiting to receive guidance from the Federal Government before accepting applications for benefits under the program.

  • In the meantime, the Governor has requested that individuals who would qualify for unemployment benefits under this new program wait to apply until after the state has received this guidance in order to streamline the process. The state will post regular updates on its COVID-19 unemployment web page and notify the public there when it will accept unemployment benefit applications for this program.


Small Business Loans

Updated April 3, 2020

  • Late on April 2, the SBA released its interim final rule on the SBA 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program loans, created by the CARES Act.  This rule clarifies one of the biggest outstanding questions on the program for NAR members - whether or not independent contractors should be included in an employer's employee headcount, and payments to them included in their average monthly payroll costs calculations.  Though there is some contradictory language in the rule, it explicitly states that because independent contractors have the ability to apply for their own paycheck protection program loan, they do NOT count for the purposes of a borrower's PPP calculation.  

  • Small businesses and sole proprietors can apply for the loans beginning today, April 3; independent contractors and the self-employed can apply beginning next Friday, April 10.  The applications should go directly through an SBA lender.  You can find out more about this loan - eligibility requirements, what it can be used for, forgiveness requirements, plus links to the application and how to find an SBA lender - here on NAR's FAQ document, which is being updated to reflect the latest information from the SBA.  


March 19, 2020

  • On March 16, the Governor announced that the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation would administer a $10 million fund that could grant up to $75,000 in low-interest loans to an eligible small business with no payments for the first six-months. However, on March 19, the MGCC announced that it was no longer accepting applications and it, along with state officials, pivoted to promoting federal disaster loans from the Small Business Administration detailed below.  

  • On March 19, Massachusetts was approved for federal disaster loan assistance by the Small Business Administration, giving small businesses in Massachusetts until December 18 to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. These loans can be used by businesses without otherwise available credit to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Recipients can qualify for a loan of up to $2 million paid over a maximum of 30 years with interest rates of 3.75%. More information is available on the SBA website.

Paid Sick Time, Medical Leave, and Unemployment

Updated March 25, 2020

  • Lawmakers and the White House came to an agreement in the wee hours Wednesday morning on a nearly $2 trillion stimulus package intended to boost the economy and rush financial support to businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 outbreak. The package that leaders so far have agreed upon includes a direct, one-time payment of $1,200 to be sent to most adults. It also includes infusing $300 billion in relief toward small businesses, as well as a half-trillion-dollar fund to support companies that may be struggling from mass closures as the nation works to reduce the virus’ spread.

  • The package includes one provision that the National Association of REALTORS® advocacy team has strongly worked alongside Congress to achieve—an inclusion of unemployment aid that also would apply to independent contractors, a category that traditionally is not included in unemployment laws but one that many real estate professionals fall into.

  • Under the current proposal, employment insurance will be available to individuals who are furloughed, gig workers, and freelancers. Payments will be increased by $600 per week for four months on top of what states already provide for unemployment compensation. The amount of compensation will vary based upon what the self-employed individual has earned in the past. Read more here at NAR's web site. 

Updated March 19, 2020

  • The federal “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” enacted on March 18 expands family medical leave and paid sick leave and helps provide additional funding and flexibility for Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs. 

Office Policies

Updated March 19, 2020

  • MAR recommends having office staff work from home and advising agents to stay out of the office or other gathering points as much as possible. Online platforms should be used to host meetings, events, and classes remotely. 

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