Can an Independent Contractor File for Unemployment in California

As an independent contractor, you may be wondering if you are eligible to file for unemployment benefits in California. The answer is yes, you may be eligible under certain circumstances.

First, it’s important to understand what an independent contractor is. According to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), an independent contractor is someone who is self-employed and works for clients or customers. This means that you work on your own schedule and are responsible for your own taxes and expenses.

In California, independent contractors are considered “self-employed” individuals for tax purposes. This means that they are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits, as they are not considered employees of a company.

However, under the CARES Act, which was passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, independent contractors may be eligible for a new type of unemployment insurance called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

PUA is specifically designed for self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and gig economy workers who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. To be eligible for PUA, you must meet certain criteria, such as being unable to work due to COVID-19 related reasons, including caring for a child whose school has closed or being diagnosed with COVID-19.

To apply for PUA, independent contractors must first file a regular unemployment claim through the EDD. Once your claim is denied because you are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits, you will be automatically considered for PUA. You do not need to take any additional steps to apply for PUA.

It’s important to note that the amount of PUA benefits you receive will depend on your earnings as an independent contractor. The maximum weekly benefit amount is $450, but you may be eligible for additional funds if you have dependents.

In conclusion, while traditional unemployment benefits may not be available to independent contractors in California, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance if you meet certain criteria. It’s important to file a regular unemployment claim through the EDD to be considered for PUA. If you have any questions about your eligibility or how to apply, contact the EDD for assistance.