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Unemployment Benefits for Independent Contractors

Updated: Mar 31, 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.

MAR will continue to provide updates as they are made available.

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.

CARES Act summary:

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