Unemployment benefits going out Friday for self-employed and gig workers

Brian Ivy on Thursday, April 23, 2020, prepares to reopen Salon Ivy in Anchorage. Self-employed Alaskans were previously ineligible for unemployment benefits because they didn’t pay employment security tax. (Photo by Hannah Lies/Alaska Public Media)

After weeks of waiting, the Alaska Department of Labor says unemployment benefits will start going out to self-employed, contract, and gig-economy workers beginning Friday.

Those workers were previously ineligible for unemployment benefits because they didn’t pay employment security tax. The federal CARES Act set up a new program to pay those non-traditional employees for the first time.

Now, the Department of Labor says 15,000 people have applied for the new program, called the Pandemic Unemployment Relief, or PUA program. Cathy Munoz, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Labor, says that those payments should start going out on Friday.

In addition to weekly benefits based on previous wages earned, all workers who qualify for the PUA program will receive $600 per week as part of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

The news comes as the Department of Labor announced nearly 9,000 new unemployment insurance claims during last week’s filing period. That number is about half of the all-time weekly high of over 14,000, set in the beginning of April. It also represents a drop in the total number of workers receiving unemployment benefits of about 2,500.

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