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If I’m self-employed or own a business, am I eligible for unemployment or other benefits?

Last Updated: 03/23/2021

If you've lost your job and are seeking help, refer to this general guide that will help you connect to benefits and resources you may need while trying to safely get back to work as well as tips for coping with the stress of losing a job.

Self-employed, independent contractors, and gig workers:

Federal COVID-19 relief bills extend unemployment benefits to freelancers, gig workers and independent contractors, who typically are not eligible.

If you have no work or lost hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you are likely eligible for help through federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

For more information and an application guide for self-employed workers, see myunemployment.nj.gov/pua and apply online at myunemployment.nj.gov

Per federal rules, the first step to access these expanded benefits is that you need to be found ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits, which means you need to apply and be denied. If your claim is denied, you can file an appeal, which takes time, and the NJDOL will contact you regarding next steps and to gather additional information necessary to assess you for PUA.

In this case, you will need to gather the last two years of your tax returns, or other evidence of income or work history, which will be necessary for processing your claim. PUA benefits can be paid retroactively for periods of unemployment beginning on or after January 27, 2020 through September 4, 2021, for a maximum of 75 weeks of benefits.

Those collecting PUA can receive an additional $300 per week from January 2 through September 4, 2021 through Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

Claimants must certify for these benefits online each week. The latest certification schedule -- based on Social Security number -- can be found at myunemployment.nj.gov.

To see if you may be eligible for New Jersey's Unemployment Insurance, Temporary Disability Insurance, Earned Sick Leave, and Family Leave Insurance programs visit nj.gov/labor/covidbenefits or use the DOL Eligibility Tool getstarted.nj.gov.

Self-employed workers may also be eligible for tax credits to take advantage of emergency paid sick leave and emergency FMLA childcare leave. Learn more at dol.gov and irs.gov

Business Owners

If you are a business owner, information regarding unemployment insurance eligibility can be found at NJDOL's Information for Corporate Officers & Business Owners.

In addition, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has several programs to support thousands of businesses and their workers facing economic hardship due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The initiatives include a grant program for small businesses, a zero-interest loan program for mid-size companies, support for private-sector lenders, funding for entrepreneurs, and a variety of resources providing technical support and marketplace information. For more information read this article.

New Jersey businesses are also eligible to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). These are working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster. These loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period. Learn more on how to apply and if you're eligible here.

Source: nj.gov/labor/covidbenefits; https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text; https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know; https://blog.ssa.gov/commissioner-of-social-security-shares-update-about-covid-19-economic-impact-payments-for-beneficiaries/