Self-Employed, Contractors Can Apply Now for Unemployment Benefits

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Self-employed workers and independent contractors in Arkansas who are out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic can now apply for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), state officials announced late Monday.

Individuals can apply online for the PUA benefits from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week. Applicants can also call 1-844-908-2178 from 6 a.m.-4 p.m.

Those eligible for PUA benefits are:

  • Nonprofit employees;
  • Gig economy workers;
  • Individuals who work for employers exempt from participating in the regular unemployment insurance program;
  • Part-time workers without enough work history to qualify for regular unemployment benefits; and
  • Individuals impacted by COVID-19 but who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits due to a prior disqualification.

The program provides up to 39 weeks of benefits with weekly payments ranging from $133 to $451, based on income from the previous tax year (2019). The assistance period begins with the week ending Feb. 8 and ends with the week ending Dec. 26.

For those who qualify, the program will apply retroactively to the date they became unemployed for a qualifying coronavirus-related reason.  

PUA recipients will also automatically qualify for an additional $600 each week for the first 13 weeks of eligibility under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. This will apply to the week ending April 4 through the week ending July 25. 

Also today, small businesses in Arkansas are able to apply for an “Arkansas Ready for Business” grant from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. today and Wednesday. Businesses can apply here.