The Self-Employed Can Apply for Unemployment, or Can They?

Critics say the Department of Labor missed its deadline because filers can only get through the first phase of the claim process.

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Hair salon owner Melissa Palumbo has been waiting since March 19 to file for unemployment. She hasn’t received a dime, because she’s self-employed.

Thursday, the state opened up a new system for folks like her.

“I’m on it right now. It’s not there. It’s not there," said Palumbo as she looked at the Connecticut Department of Labor website.

Palumbo said she stayed up until midnight to try to file her claim and woke up several times throughout the night after it didn't appear.

“I was trying to get myself in line, first come first serve," said Palumbo, who owns The Style Room in Tolland.

The first step is applying. Palumbo did that weeks ago and received the letter that all applicants should receive in the mail denying their claim for regular benefits because they are self-employed.

“They’ve already gone through step one and have been waiting in our system for this point in time," Deputy Commissioner of the CT Department of Labor Dante Bartolomeo said Thursday.

Palumbo thought she’d be able to move on to step two on Thursday. The Department of Labor marked April 30 as the day the self-employed would be able to apply for unemployment.

Thursday, state officials said phase two is not coming until next week, which prompted some to think the DOL had in fact missed their deadline.

“In our world right now, we’re moving at lightening speed," Bartolomeo said, referencing the three new computer programs the DOL had to create to handle the new unemployment programs issued to help those out of work before and during the pandemic.

Palumbo must wait. As will the tens of thousands of other self-employed individuals that Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby estimated have or will file for the program.

“We can always do better. Anytime a claimant is not able to access his or her benefits as quickly as possible we’re not going fast enough," said Westby in reference to the overall handling of claims since the Covid crisis began.

“The federal government approved this weeks and weeks ago and now people on regular unemployment have gotten an extra $600 a week when there’s people who haven’t received anything," Palumbo pointed out.

Westby said the first payments, which will range from $198 to $649, will go out at the end of next week, but Palumbo questioned whether the state would make their deadline.

For a step-by-step guide on how on how to file for PUA unemployment benefits and an FAQ guide, click here.

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