Unemployment Checks Should be Coming for the Self-Employed, But When?

The Department of Labor's computer system is in need of significant updates.

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Painter Lauren Serven has been self-employed for 25 years.  She’s not getting to beautify people’s homes these days because of the pandemic.

She said she’s grateful that for the first time in Connecticut, thanks to federal stimulus money, that self-employed people like her can apply for unemployment benefits.   

“I’m very appreciative that they’re doing it, I think it’s great…they have to do something to get self-employed individuals through this hump," she said.

However, there has been no true system in place for them to apply for that assistance.

When Serven went to the Connecticut Department of Labor website to see if she qualified, she had trouble answering the questions. 

“The questions are not really pertinent. Even just being able to answer a simple question like who your employer is….I mean, for filling the application out, you don’t have a conventional weekly salary, most self-employed people do not have that.”

Painter Lauren Serven on a job before the coronavirus pandemic

The CT DOL is writing new software to address self-employed people.

It’s on a computer network that’s roughly 40 years old, using a mainframe computer language called COBOL.  The state explained it has been working on more than 100 COBOL programs that must be changed to implement all the changes needed because of the addition of federal stimulus money to state unemployment programs, including the one for the self-employed.

There’s no timeline for how long this is going to take.

Processing for even regular unemployment benefits has been backed up as much as five to six weeks.  At last count, the CT DOL said approximately 320,000 unemployment claims have been received since the layoffs from the coronavirus pandemic began.  About 152,000 claims have been processed.

The state said it hopes self-employed people will be able to begin applying within a few weeks and recommend people like Serven wait until then. She said she hopes that’s not too late.

“You know some people you know are probably being stretched thin.”

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