Self-employed workers will have to wait at least a month before getting benefits

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development building in Juneau (Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Self-employed workers or those working in the gig economy who lost work due to the coronavirus will have to wait at least four weeks before applying for benefits, Alaska’s Department of Labor said.

In 2018, more than 43,000 Alaskans were classified as self-employed, according to information from federal income tax fillings. Those workers are ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits, which can pay up to $370 per week, because they don’t pay the employment security tax when they file their federal income tax. 

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But, for the first time ever, the recently-passed federal CARES Act will provide unemployment insurance for the self-employed or workers in the gig economy. 

Alaska Department of Labor officials said Monday those workers will have to wait before the program can be properly implemented, which could be at least four weeks and possibly longer.

RELATED: What is the CARES Act and how can it help you and your small business?

“The reason for that is we’re standing up a brand new system. We’re putting into place the IT upgrades, the changes to the computer system, the income verification methods,” said Cathy Muñoz, the deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The department will have to train new staff and negotiate implementation with the federal government, which funds the program. Muñoz said that federal guidance to states didn’t come in until late Sunday.

RELATED: Out of work in Alaska because of the coronavirus? Here’s what you can do now and the help that’s on the way

For now, self-employed workers affected by closures will have to wait. 

“Everybody is working very hard to get this done and to do it so that the rollout is done successfully and to do that a number of things need to happen for it to be successful,” she said.   

The program, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, will pay an additional $600 per week, depending on income, plus $74 for each dependent.