Thursday, May 7, 2020

Pennsylvania Beginning to Award Unemployment Benefits to Self-Employed, Independent Contractors and Gig Workers - Early Applications Being Processed



Notice of Financial Determinations Being Issued on May 7 for Earliest Applications Made by Self-Employed Workers


On May 7, 2020, I heard for the first time that Pennsylvania's Unemployment Department has issued notice to self-employed business owners, independent contractors and gig workers that they had been approved for benefits.  In this case, the person who informed me had applied on the very first morning that she was able - Saturday, April 18 - 

My client, who reported earnings via a w-9 form indicating that she made approximately $22,000 last year, was deemed eligible for $276 per week.  When one takes into account that a federal unemployment subsidy of up to $600 per week will be made available to her, it is hoped that she, and claimants like her, will be made whole for the earnings lost due to the pandemic.  That is wonderful.

Keep an Eye Out for an e-Mail From the Pa. Department of Labor!

My client has been unable to submit her weekly certifications up until this week.  In fact, until she received an e-mail on Tuesday evening from the Pa. Department of Labor, she had heard nothing about her application.  Here is what the header on that e-Mail looked like:

From: Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry <ra-li-oucb-clmtemail@pa.gov>
Date: May 6, 2020 at 18:00:09 EDT
To: XXXClient@gmail.com
Subject: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance - System Update & Resources
Reply-To: ra-li-oucb-clmtemail@pa.gov
When she opened that e-Mail, she was taken to a Dashboard, where she saw a message.  The message told her she was approved, and for how much!

The Pandemic Portal for Self-Employed Claimants!
Debit Card or Direct Deposit?

Once she viewed the message she was asked if she wanted payment through direct deposit or a debit card.  Either one works, depending on your choice!

You Must Do All of Your Weekly Certifications Now

Then, she was required to do a weekly certification for every week of unemployment dating back to her first week of eligibility, which was March 1.  Every time she completed a week, she was told a payment for the week in question would be issued this week.

Of course, she will soon receive a retroactive check dating back to March 1 (no waiting week is required due to the pandemic). 

It is great to see hardworking people deprived of their livelihood by this horrific situation being provided a lifeline to carry on as the Country tries to recapture "normal.'

God Bless America, and may all of you and yours be happy, healthy and well.

Resolving Business Conflicts Since 1991



Saturday, April 18, 2020

How Do I Complete an Application for Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania If I am Self-Employed, an Independent Contractor or a Gig Worker?



Applying for Unemployment in Pennsylvania if You are a Self-Employed Business Owner, a Principal or Executive in a Closely Held Company That Has Shut Down or Gone Out of Business, a Partner, a Sole Proprietor, an Independent Contractor or a Gig Worker???

The Link to file is HERE

Once you get the application open, however, you may experience some confusion in answering some of the questions.  So, I took a look at the app, and below are my thoughts!

Confused About Certain Questions on the Unemployment Application for Self-Employed in Pennsylvania?

Here are the pages bound to confuse many applicants, along with my humble thoughts on what the questions mean - or how perhaps you should respond under given circumstances.


Hope you can read my gibberish, and very best of luck to you!

Solving Problems in Pennsylvania Since 1991


Unemployment Applications for Self-Employed Business Owners, Independent Contractors and Gig Workers is Now Available in Pennsylvania

How Can I Find the Pennsylvania Application for Unemployment Benefits for Self-Employed Business Owners, Independent Contractors and Gig Workers??


Where is the Pennsylvania Application for Unemployment Benefits for Self-Employed Business Owners, Independent Contractors and Gig Workers??

You can find FAQs HERE, and at the very bottom of the page there is a Blue Check Box that says  file for PUA!! 

How Can I Find the Link to Apply for Unemployment In Pennsylvania if I am Self-Employed or an Independent Contractor??

That will take you to a Portal, entitled Pennsylvania's Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Portal. File your claim!!!

Need Help Completing the Application?  John printed out the App, and has addressed some of the tough questions HERE



Providing Business and Employment Solutions Since 1991
610-647-5027
jag@johnagallagher.com


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Still No Unemployment Applications Available for Self-Employed Business Owners, Independent Contractors or Gig Workers in Pennsylvania

Self-Employed Business Owners Who Have Shut Down Their Operation Entitled to Unemployment Benefits Under Federal Coronavirus Stimulus Package - But Special Application is Required and Pennsylvania's Department of Labor Has Yet to Make that Special Application Available!


As discussed in the above video, while the federal government passed the stimulus package that authorized unemployment benefits for the self-employed, etc., and (ostensibly) authorized funding for same, it is up to the states to administer all unemployment benefits and, so far, Pennsylvania has yet to even create the application needed for such applicants to complete (while at the same time advising that such claimants should NOT use the regular applications available on line.

UPDATE:   On April 18, 2020, Pennsylvania's Department of Labor published its application!  Click Here for the Link to Apply for Unemployment in Pennsylvania if you are self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker.

It was on March 26, 2020 that the United States Congress passed the $2 Trillion Stimulus Package, which included provisions enabling self-employed business persons (including contractors and gig workers) to collect unemployment.  Many relied upon that legislation, and have planned accordingly.  Now, their financial and emotional limits are being stretched well-beyond what is fair, and beyond what is financially reasonable.



I have been keeping an eye on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor's COVID-19 special website page, and on the social media output of State Representative Ryan Warner, who has been advocating for the prompt availability of the application (and noted on April 13 that Michigan had just gotten its self-employment benefits application on-line), but so far - NOTHING.

There is some strong suspicion that in fact it is the federal government that is behind this  extraordinary delay.

Is Secretary of Labor Scalia Holding Things Up???
Below are some interesting tidbits lifted directly from the DOL's webpage, as of 4/15/20 at 5:30 p.m.:

How Does the Pennsylvania Unemployment Application Process Work?  Is There an e-Mail Address for Pennsylvania Unemployment Help???

Important info:
  • If you are eligible for UC, you will receive two letters and a four-digit PIN
  • Your PIN will arrive in the U.S. mail – keep it in a safe, easy to remember place
  • If approved, your first benefit payment should arrive within four weeks of filing for UC
  • Continue filing your bi-weekly claim (every two weeks) – even while waiting for approval
  • We are experiencing very large call volumes.  Please email us at uchelp@pa.gov.
  • For specific questions about your claim,  provide your full name (as it appears on your claim, including any suffix used) and the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Note: Duplicative emails and/or requests may cause delays.
If You Have Not Received Your Unemployment Claim PIN From the Pa. Department of Labor You Will Not be Able to File Your Bi-Weekly Claim - but You Will be Able to "Catch-up" and Will Not Lose Benefits

PIN and Determinations: If you filed a new Initial Claim application, you will receive a Claim Confirmation Letter via U.S. Postal Service usually within 7-10 business days that will include your Personal Identification Number or PIN. 
Due to current volumes, you may not receive your PIN in time to file biweekly, but you will be able to file for recent and missed weeks once your PIN arrives. 
You will also receive your Notice of Financial Determination Letter via U.S. Postal Service usually within 10-15 business days, but it currently could be longer. 
Pennsylvania Suspends Requirement That You Register at CareerLink or Comply With Job Search and Job Search Registration Requirements in Order to Maintain Unemployment Compensation Eligibility 

 The following rules have been temporarily suspended due to Governor Tom Wolf's emergency declaration to make it easier to file for UC benefits:
  • Work Search and Work Registration requirements are temporarily suspended for all UC claimants. Claimants are not required to prove they have applied or searched for a new job to maintain their UC benefits. Claimants are also not required to register with PACareerLink.pa.gov.    
I will keep you posted on any further developments.

Solving Business and Employment Problems Since 1991

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Wedding Industry is Being Severely Impacted by Coronavirus

Are Weddings Being Cancelled or Postponed as a Result of the Coronavirus?

"The coronavirus is cancelling life's biggest moments, and leaving families heartbroken." 
Alicia Lee, CNN

What’s the last thing you think about when planning a wedding?  C0ronavirus...

But alas, here we are in 2020, mid-pandemic. Couples across the nation are popping another question now: to postpone or to cancel? As COVID-19 sweeps the nation and crushes lifelong wedding dreams everywhere, we ponder the effects of this pandemic on the entire industry.

As recently noted by KnotNews.com“[a]s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic, tens of thousands of couples marrying this spring and their many respective vendors have scrambled in the last month to find alternative dates and solutions ahead.” 

Tainted Love - It Appears That All Traditional Weddings Have Been Postponed for Now, and the Foreseeable Future, Due to COVID-19 

The coronavirus is larger than life, which unfortunately means bigger than your wedding.
All the time and money and stress and excitement that goes into the year of planning a wedding makes for some major disappointment when met with a rampant widespread disease such as this. So many different vendors and so much money is involved. Until this outbreak is under control and there is a vaccine, it’s virtually impossible to confidently plan an event like this.

One of the more ubiquitous effects the novel coronavirus has had is on our work life. Many no longer go to the office every day and have been working from home, while others are essential and working overtime. Some have lost employment altogether, which is the case for many wedding professionals. As weddings and related events are cancelled, the vendors involved in making these events happen are going to lose money. The COVID-19 pandemic has pretty much shut down the industry completely, and right as the busy season had just kicked off. 

“Wedding season, the most popular time of the year to get married,
had just kicked off when the coronavirus pandemic threw everything awry.”
Alicia Lynn, CNN

Emily Dimant, a Philadelphia-based freelance artist who primarily does wedding makeup, is one of many who have been unable to work. “Almost every single wedding into June that I was supposed to work has been postponed. My days went from . . . work every day in a new place with the next year fully booked to a totally empty calendar for March, April, May, and until further notice.”  

It’s a freelancer’s worst nightmare and it’s happening to so many of us in the wedding business. “I watched all of my jobs for the month cancel in a matter of hours,” says NYC based freelance artist Molly Fredenberg

Business has suddenly come to a screeching halt for so many whorely on the wedding season for the majority of their yearly, and smallerbusinesses especially are suffering. “The US wedding industry alone is worth $72 billion as of 2018, according to a report by IBIS World. Much of that money goes to the people who actually make the weddings happen: planners, day-of coordinators, bands, food vendors, and wait staff.” 

See Amanda Jane's Work at AmandaJaneGallagher.com
Love Will Find a Way

As a wedding photographer, my entire business is impacted. Lately, my days have been filled with disappointing phone calls from brides and grooms as they have no choice but to call off their upcoming nuptials. The jobs I had lined up for the next few months are being crossed off my calendar one after another. Postponements and cancellations mean I am unable to work, but with the entire industry at an indefinite standstill, my sales have also been suffering. Meeting with couples face-to-face is the number one way I book future jobs, but unfortunately happens to be the very thing we’ve all been told definitely not to do.

Amid the chaos, I’ve been doing what I can to keep my business afloat. Social media is currently the best tool we have for marketing ourselves and connecting with couples. We’ve all just got to do what we can, so for now Instagram posts and video calls with clients are the best resources I’ve found.

Our world is struggling right now. The future is uncertain and that is certainly overwhelming at times, but safety and health are the most important thing. We’re all together facing this pandemic and the fears and apprehensions it brings with it. Yes, you may have to postpone your wedding. Yes, we are super bummed about it and yes, it totally sucks for small businesses. But the love remains and weddings will go on. Love will not be cancelled.

Solving Business-Related Problems Since 1991

Thank you for this Guest Post, Amanda Jane.  

Click Here to out Amanda's great work!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Some Answers to Why No Unemployment Applications Available Yet for Self Employed Business Owners, 1099 Contractors and Gig Workers


Is the Federal Government - and Principally Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia - Responsible for Unconscionable Delay in Making Unemployment Compensation Benefits Available to Self-Employed Business Owners, 1099 Contractors and Gig Workers?

The following are selected excerpts from a Washington Post ensemble piece published on April 10, 2020, and entitled: Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia faces blowback as he curtails scope of worker relief in unemployment crisis:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Eugene Scalia -
C'mon, Man
In recent days, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, who has expressed concerns about unemployment insurance being too generous, has used his department’s authority over new laws enacted by Congress to limit who qualifies for joblessness assistance and to make it easier for small businesses not to pay family leave benefits. The new rules make it more difficult for gig workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers to get benefits, while making it easier for some companies to avoid paying their workers coronavirus-related sick and family leave.

“The Labor Department chose the narrowest possible definition of who qualifies for pandemic unemployment assistance,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who has spent two decades working on unemployment programs.

                                                            .           .           .

Democrats and some Republicans argue that the Labor Department needs to be more aggressive about disbursing money and technical assistance to states to shore up the unemployment insurance system. The department has released only half of $1 billion in administrative support for states that Congress approved almost a month ago.

Sen. Lindsay O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday in an interview that he has talked to Scalia about the need to speed things up.

“You could have massive civil unrest if these systems cannot get checks out the door. We’re talking about 20 percent unemployment, maybe even more,” Graham said. “The application process is a nightmare. The state systems are failing.”

                                                            .           .           .

“Under Secretary Scalia’s leadership, in the last two weeks, the department has quickly released new rules and guidance for states, businesses, and individual Americans to help those in need of relief,” said Patrick Pizzella, deputy labor secretary. “The department has already distributed nearly $500 million in additional administrative funding to 39 states.”

Still, Scalia has made clear he is wary of taking an excessively lax approach to disbursing aid, an argument that he used to help win GOP support for recent legislation. Writing on Fox Business Network’s website on Monday, he warned that he does not want unemployed people to become addicted to government aid.

.           .           .

On the day the $2 trillion package passed the Senate, Scalia spoke with Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who had raised concerns the law’s new unemployment benefits were too large and would deter workers from returning to jobs.

Scalia told conservative senators that once enacted, his agency would ensure the provisions his agency oversees would not hurt U.S. companies, according to three congressional officials aware of the conversations and granted anonymity to discuss the call.
                                                            .           .           .          
“We want workers to work, not to become dependent on the unemployment system,” Scalia wrote with Small Business Administration chief Jovita Carranza. “Unemployment is not the preferred outcome when government stay-at-home orders force temporary business shutdowns.”
                                                            .           .           .
New Labor Department guidance says unemployment benefits apply to gig workers only if they are “forced to suspend operations,” which could dramatically limit options for those workers if their apps are still operating. Other workers also face a high hurdle to qualify for benefits.

The guidance says a worker “may be able to return to his or her place of employment within two weeks” of quarantining, and parents forced to stop work to care for kids after schools closed are not eligible for unemployment after the school year is over. Workers who stay home because they are older or in another high-risk group are also ineligible unless they can prove a medical professional advised them to stop working.
                                                            .           .           .
Some states are also having a difficult time figuring out how to verify how much money self-employed workers typically earn. It might require looking at tax documents, which unemployment offices don’t usually have access to.

“Some of the requirements, the standards that we’re being held to, are going to be incredibly difficult to adhere to,” Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said.

A Labor Department spokesperson said the agency is “providing as much technical assistance and IT support as possible” to states, some of which are using computer systems that are several decades old.
-------------------------------------------------





I am confident that I do not like the sound of any of that.  In Pennsylvania, applications for unemployment compensation for self-employed business owners, independent contractors and gig workers have not yet even been made available!  A number of politicos, perhaps most notably State Representative Ryan Warner, have been kicking at Governor Wolf’s heels about this extraordinary delay.  Just today, at around Noon, Rep. Warner had the following to say on his Facebook page concerning this issue:

Yet another decision made with NO legislative approval. Releasing prisoners but threatening law abiding citizens with prison...makes perfect sense! Governor, maybe you can have some of these prisoners help you finish the self-employed unemployment application form! Self-employed individuals are going on a month with no salary and yet you’ve done more for inmates than you have for law abiding businesses owners!!!

Thanks for Your Continued Efforts, Rep. Warner
I applaud Rep. Warner's consistently staunch advocacy for the cause of the self-employed (he has been on the unemployment application issue for the outset - kudos!); that said, I am beginning to get the sense, though, that it may be more of a federal issue, however…


Pennsylvania Business and Employment Lawyer Provides Updates on Coronavirus Legislation for Self-Employed Unemployment Applications, Small Business Stimulus Packages, and More

Helping Resolve Business and Employment Disputes Since 1991


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Am I Self-Employed and Therefore Eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits Due to Coronavirus-Related Business Complete Shut-Down or Significant Loss of Income?

You Are Self-Employed if You are a Principal Shareholder in an Incorporated Company, an Owner Operator of an Unincorporated Business or a Gig Worker Who Does Freelance Work


UPDATE:   On April 18, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor published the self-employment unemployment application!  Click Here for the Link to Apply for Unemployment in Pennsylvania if you are self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker.





Solving Business and Employment Problems in Pennsylvania
Since 1991


Monday, April 6, 2020

$600 Per Week in Additional Unemployment Benefits Will be Automatically Distributed to Eligible Claimants Beginning April 5

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor Announces That Beginning April 5, 2020, Eligible Claimants Will Automatically receive an Additional $600 per Week of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Pursuant to the Federal CARES Act

Per the DOL's COVID-19 Update page:

---------------------------------------------------

Federal CARES Update -  4/5/20

The federal CARES Act will provide an additional $600 per week to individuals receiving unemployment benefits beginning March 29, 2020 through July 31, 2020. Beginning with week ending April 4, 2020, if you file for and are eligible for a UC payment you will receive an additional $600. 
L&I will begin issuing the additional $600  per week once we have received guidance from the United States Department of Labor and have modified our system to implement that guidance.  Once implemented, payments will be retroactive to week ending April 4, 2020. It is anticipated that this benefit will be paid on a bi-weekly basis, the week after you file for and receive your regular UC payment.  This benefit is taxable and therefore will be subject to 10% Federal Withholding Tax, if you elected to have taxes withheld from your regular UC benefits.  For information about changing your election visit our Taxes on Benefits page. 
-------------------------------------- 
The DOL continues to advise that self-employed business owners, independent contractors and gig workers who intend to file for UC benefits hold off until the special application is ready.  We discuss that in the below video posted today:

For more comprehensive information about the maximum benefits one can receive pursuant to the CARES Act, Click Here.

April 6, 2020 Coronavirus Law UPDATE: What Self-Employed Business Owners, Independent Contractors and Gig Workers Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits and $10,000 EIDL Grants/Loans from SBA

No States Have Unemployment Applications Available for Self-Employed Business Owners, Independent Contractors or Gig Workers - Awaiting Federal Regulations for Guidance



Can I Apply for Unemployment Compensation if I am Self-Employed or an Independent Contractor or a Gig Worker Under Coronavirus (COVID-19) Stimulus Package?

I am keeping a eye on everything that I can, and will update when new information is needed.

Solving Business and Employment Problems Since 1991

Click Here if you have questions about any aspect of employment law, from wrongful termination, to wage and overtime claims, to employment, severance and non-compete contracts, to discrimination and retaliation laws, to Family and Medical Leave…

Click Here if you have questions about any aspect of Pennsylvania Unemployment Law, from willful misconduct, to voluntary quit, to Referee Hearings, to severance issues…

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Important Information About Unemployment Claims in Pennsylvania


This is from the Department of Labor's Website on April 2, 2020 @ 1:30 p.m.

Federal CARES Update

The federal CARES Act will provide unemployment benefits to the self-employed and gig workers; provide additional weeks of benefits for those exhausting unemployment compensation; and will increase the total weekly amount paid for claimants.  We will update our website with instructions on accessing these benefits as we receive guidance from the federal government. Please check our site regularly for updated instructions and to find FAQs about unemployment compensation

Self-employed Federal CARES Update

The federal CARES Act will provide unemployment benefits to the self-employed, gig workers, and other individuals who previously were not eligible for unemployment.  Special instructions will be provided to these individuals.  At this time, you should NOT file a claim through the existing online system or phone number if you are not currently eligible for unemployment.


IMPORTANT CLAIMANT UPDATES

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Status of Claims Processing 

If you opened your claim between March 15 and March 21: We are working quickly to mail a PIN to you so you can file for benefits starting Sunday, March 29, 2020.  If you do not receive your PIN by Saturday, March 28, please remember that you may file any day through Friday, April 3, 2020.  If you do not receive your PIN in time for you to file by April 3, we will make accommodations for filing and will update these instructions, accordingly.

If you opened your claim between March 22 and March 28: Your first day to file will be Sunday, April 5, 2020. We will update these instructions, accordingly, as we monitor our progress with mail processing.

For All New Claims: Mailing PINs is a top priority, so you may not have received your financial determination yet.  When you do receive your financial determination and if you detect an error, you may file an appeal at that time.  We are processing all documents as quickly as possible and appreciate your patience during this evolving situation. 

Solving Employment-Related Problems Since 1991