Self-Employed Still Waiting for Unemployment Benefits

NBC Universal, Inc.

Small business owners, still waiting for their first unemployment payment, are worried they won’t be able to weather the storm the COVID-19 crisis has caused.

For some, their dream of owning their own business has turned into a nightmare.

“Frustrating, heartbreaking,” described Felice Danielson, who has run Circle of Friends Music in Southington for 14 years.

The coronavirus forced her to temporarily stop her “mommy and me” classes on March 15.  She said she still hasn’t been told when she can reopen.

“Without timelines or knowing what phase we’re in it’s just created a lot of frustration,” she said.

She’s also waiting for unemployment.  The self-employed are the last to receive assistance. 

“Our turn has not come yet, and we’re waiting and we’re all running out of money and watching our businesses slip away,” said Danielson who said she was unable to take advantage of other programs for small business owners.

 The system, created by Connecticut’s Department of Labor, was supposed to go online April 30.  That day, the DOL said the second half of the process wouldn’t be up and running until the middle of the first week of May and promised payments would start going out on Friday, May 8. On Wednesday, NBC Connecticut was told the second part of the application process will be open Thursday or Friday and that it may take three days to process payments.  That means Danielson and the rest of those who’ve been waiting seven weeks to get paid, may have to wait eight.

“This is an entirely new system that had to be stood up from scratch,” said Connecticut’s Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe. “With any new system that has to be stood up, it has to be tested before it’s deployed and in the final testing, there was a bug that was encountered so they are fixing that. We hope to have that fixed and ready to be launched very, very soon."

“I just feel like we’re forgotten about,” said Melissa Palumbo, who started the Style Room, a hair salon in Tolland, a decade ago.

Palumbo said the pandemic has given her second thoughts about being her own boss.

“It feels like the American dream right?  It doesn’t now.  It feels devastating,” she said.

Palumbo said she still hasn't been given reopening guidelines from her local health department. She said when she tried calling them, no one answered the phone.

“Looking to reopen on May 20, it’s scary because where’s my work going to come from, how am I going to buy all the Lysol, disposable capes, and towels and color.  Even if I can get access to any of that stuff, with what money do I buy it with," said Palumbo

Both women said they feel like they’re living in limbo, waiting to get paid and waiting for directions on how to reopen.  They shared that other small business owners who they’ve met online through this crisis feel the same way.

“We’ll wait patiently to do it.  Yes, our businesses will be in jeopardy, but we’ll wait if that’s what you want us to do state of Connecticut, but then give us our unemployment that you promised us,” said Danielson.

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