The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) were designed to offer financial support to thousands of Americans who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Since the CARES Act was launched in March there has been a lot of discussion in the media about small to medium businesses, and how this legislation can help them get the relief funds they desperately need. But what about those who are self-employed? 

The CARES Act provides support for contractors and freelancers, through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. This program allows people who would not traditionally be eligible for standard unemployment benefits, to get the help they need. 

Overview of the CARES Act

We all know by now that the Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on the US economy. As a response to this, the CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020 to provide support to public health, governments, state and local businesses and individuals. 

If you are a small business owner or an entrepreneur, the government has created an easy to follow guide to support options so you can find the right program for your needs. This includes everything from the payment protection program which can help businesses access money to cover employee costs or Emergency Economic Injury Grants which can provide you with small cash injections.

What is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA)

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program is one of the programs established by the CARES Act. The federal government recognises that many people who are self-employed have lost work due to COVID-19. These people do not have unemployment insurance and therefore don’t have access to benefits. PUA expands state unemployment insurance eligibility to self-employed workers, freelancers, gig workers and contractors who normally wouldn’t be able to access these benefits. This program is set to run through to December 31st. 

Who is Eligible for Self-Employed Unemployment Assistance Through PUA?

All self-employed, independent contractors, gig worker or freelancers are eligible for Self-Employed Unemployment Assistance as long as they can prove that they are unable to work due to the following: 

  • Diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Has yet to be diagnosed with COVID-19 but is displaying symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis 
  • A member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 
  • Dependents of individual seeking PUA are unable to take care of themselves due to COVID-19
  • Unable to access work due to quarantine 
  • Unable to work due to federally mandated shut-down caused by COVID outbreak (they are not an essential business and therefore cannot remain in operation)

Keep in mind that states are offering their own versions of PUA, so this assistance may differ depending on where you are based. It will also continue to evolve at a federal and state level as time goes on. 

Those who can work remotely or telework are not eligible for PUA however The CARES Act is incentivizing states to offer short-time compensation programs for workers who have experienced a significant reduction in hours as a result of the pandemic. If you’re not eligible for the Self-Employment Unemployment Assistance, or you simply want to explore your options, we’ve put together a guide to disaster assistance for small businesses.

How Much Will I Get From Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

If you are eligible for PUA the amount of benefits you receive depends on the state you live in. The minimum benefit you can receive will be equal to 50% of the state’s average weekly UI benefit. 

The average weekly UI benefit can be vastly different from state to state, because of this discrepancy those who successfully apply for PUA can also receive $600 in federal benefits per week through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program up until July 31.