Some ASJA members may be eligible for forgivable loans from the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program. They will be of most help to members who own small businesses, covering payroll costs, and insurance premiums, along with rent, and utilities. They may also be of use to the self-employed, particularly those that rent outside offices. We are checking for more details on how independent contractors might be able to use these loans and will be updating. But for the most part, self-employed would likely derive the greater benefit from collecting unemployment now that it’s an option.
The loans require no collateral or personal guarantee and can be repaid over 10 years. Most significantly, the portion covering payroll, mortgage, rent, or utility expenses from Feb. 15 to June 30, can be forgiven. Find a quick overview, look here. Visit SBA.gov for more info. Click here for more information on The Paycheck Protection Program.
For US citizens:
ASJA member Stacey Freed was having a hard time filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance on the New York State Labor Department website. As she’d heard from others, there is no clear path to a particular URL (although there is a page of guidelines for how to fill out the form). To help others in the same predicament, she posted a step-by-step guide on the forum here.
Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27, freelancers and independent contractors are for the first time eligible to collect unemployment. Members must apply through their state’s employment office, and since this is a new program, it’s expected to take at least a few days if not weeks for state offices to work out details.
These payments can be quite substantial. Applicants can receive $600 per week for up to four months, along with payments from their state for a maximum of 39 weeks. Since independent contractors and freelancers don’t get a regular paycheck, previous tax returns will be used to confirm your typical income. If you expect your income in 2019 will be lower than it was in 2018, it may make sense to delay filing your 2019 return. (The filing deadline has been moved to July 15.)
For Canadian citizens:
Applications will open on April 6. To be eligible to receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) from Service Canada, the following must apply:
- You must reside in Canada
- You are 15 years of age or older at the time of application
- You have stopped or will stop working for reasons related to COVID-19, or because you are unable to work due to illness, or because you lost your employment for other reasons beyond your control; and
- If you are submitting for your first benefit period, that you have stopped or will stop working for at least 14 consecutive days within the 4 week benefit period; or
- If you are filing for a subsequent benefit period, you did not receive any employment or self-employment income for the period for which you previously claimed the benefit and do not expect to receive any employment or self-employment income in the 4 week benefit period
- You have not quit your job voluntarily
- You are not receiving nor have you applied for the CERB from the Canada Revenue Agency nor are you receiving Employment Insurance benefits for the same benefit period
- You have earned a minimum of $5,000 in income within the last 12 months or in the 2019 calendar year from one or more of the following sources:
- Employment income
- Self-employment income
Important! If you are not normally eligible for Employment Insurance, please register for your CRA My Account and direct deposit in advance of the application launch.
For more information, please go to the federal government website.
Apply for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) with CRA - Canada.ca
Surviving the Pandemic, With a Little Help from the Feds
A career as a freelance writer and the benefits usually associated with traditional employment seldom go hand in hand. They never have. For many people, this benefit gap is a fundamental flaw in the system that puts freelancers at a distinct disadvantage when compared with their regular employee peers. Legislative attempts to “fix” the perceived problem, which are on the rise these days, tend to dismiss the possibility freelancing might be a desirable—and for many of us, a successful—career choice. Read more here.