Self-employed residents in Connecticut who are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic can now apply for unemployment and could receive payments in about a week if their applications were approved.
The link to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program went live on the state Department of Labor website on Thursday. Click here to use it.
Deputy Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo said this was a "soft opening" and .urged claimants to be careful when submitting information.
The information for applications for state benefits and PUA must match, she said, and said there have been some issues with lockouts.
The self-employed in Connecticut have been waiting for weeks to apply for unemployment while the state built a whole new system to accommodate the PUA benefit program.
More than 38,000 self-employed people have completed the first step of the process and that number could grow to 40,000 or more, officials said Thursday.
People who are found eligible, complete the process correctly and choose the direct deposit option could see benefits in about a week.
Bartolomeo said claimants can sign up for direct deposit by going to the green button.
The benefit range is from $198 to $649, based on earnings, but the state is starting recipients at the $198 minimum for now.
According to the state Department of Labor, to prevent overpayment, self-employed applicants who not are eligible for state benefits could be eligible for the weekly minimum PUA rate of $198; $15 for each dependency up to five; and the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payment. The first payment will also include any retroactive FPUC, beginning with week ending April 4.
The agency is partnering with the Department of Revenue Services to validate self-reported wages to determine if earnings require a higher weekly benefit amount.
If the claimant is eligible for an increased PUA benefit, the claim will be re-determined at the higher weekly PUA rate and the PUA system will automatically issue adjustment payments and provide future benefit weeks at the higher amount.
If the self-reported wages cannot be validated, the weekly PUA rate will remain at $198 weekly.
Workers who originally thought they would be able to apply on April 30, were told they would have to wait until the middle of this week.
A bug in the system discovered during a test phase delayed it through Wednesday, according to Connecticut chief operating officer, Josh Geballe.
The state Department of Labor and its commissioner, Kurt Westby, held a briefing this afternoon on the processing of unemployment claim applications.
The Department of Labor is worked to fix the problem as fast as possible, according to Geballe.
"All of that explanation, of course, is no solace to the people who are waiting for these benefits to come," Geballe said.
Bartolomeo said that, because of the federal system, they had to build an entirely new system to work with the Reemploy Connecticut system.
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Those who are self-employed or part of the gig economy have historically not been eligible for unemployment. That changed when the coronavirus devastated the economy in March and led to 30 million people losing their jobs due to the pandemic.
The federal government passed the PUA benefit program to help those who work for themselves.
It is actually a two-step process to apply for the PUA benefits. The first part of the process has been open for self-employed residents for weeks, but it's the second step that is not yet open.
The website for the Department of Labor says it has processes nearly 395,000 of the 451,000 claim applications it has processed.
How to Finish Step Two:
- Go to CTDOL www.filectui.comand click on the red PUA button, labeled PUA/Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
- The system will have a record of your ineligibility status to receive state benefits.
- Complete the PUA application –
- Applicants should have 2019 IRS tax returns, 1099 forms, 2019 W-2 statements, pay check stubs, bank receipts or business records. Those without wage records for 2019 can self-attest their earnings, but could be subject to audit.
- Applicants will be asked the date when COVID-19 impacted their employment. Federal guidelines allow this to go back to Feb. 2, 2020. If an unemployed status goes back to retroactive weeks, the system asks the claimant for weekly earnings through the current week filing.
- To assist with the application:
- Answer “Yes” to the “Are you self-employed?” question.
- Answer “Yes” to “Are you a corporate officer?” if applicable.
- Select one of the four lack of work separation reasons: Lack of Work; Layoff; Temporary Shutdown; Position Eliminated.
- For Employer Name, use the business name or “Self-Employed.”
- For Employer Registration Number, use your own registration number (f you have one); otherwise, use ER# (9999995).
- Applicants are advised to select their method of payment, direct deposit or debit card, prior to submitting a PUA application. The agency recommends direct deposit for much faster payment. Payment selection is made by selecting the “method of payment” green button on the www.filectui.com filing site.
- Under the federal guidelines, self-employed individuals can collect PUA for 39 weeks.Frequently asked questions (http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/DOLCOVIDFAQ.PDF)posted to the agency’s homepage and www.filectui.com cover topics that include work availability and circumstances related to COVID-19, tax withholding and partial payment if a person is only partly unemployed due to COVID-19, and acceptable wage documents that can be submitted. An individual working a full-time job is not eligible to apply for PUA benefits.