Independent contractors, self-employed await unemployment money amid spread of COVID-19

Department of Economic Opportunity will distribute the funds

Independent contractors, gig workers and people who are self-employed have expressed frustration that they have not received guidance on obtaining federal unemployment assistance since Congress passed the Cares Act more than three weeks ago.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Independent contractors, gig workers and people who are self-employed have expressed frustration they have not received guidance on obtaining federal unemployment assistance since Congress passed the Cares Act more than three weeks ago.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which will distribute the federal funds, said Monday it planned to release more information this week on how people who are ineligible for state unemployment benefits can apply for federal aid.

“I have very little faith that we’re going to get paid, period,” said Marcia Hosper, an art director who works as an independent contractor.

Upon learning that she might be eligible for $600 weekly federal payment under the CARES Act, Hosper said she tried contacting DEO for guidance.

“Just like everybody else, I kept trying to call and I could never get through,” said Hosper. “It always hangs-up on you.”

Hosper said she tried filing an online application on the state’s unemployment benefits website.

“I kept getting knocked off and knocked off,” Hosper said of the website’s frequent technical glitches. “After about four days of trying, I got up at 4:30 in the morning and I finally got through it all.”

Even though Hosper believes she is entitled to federal funding, she said DEO denied her entire claim because she does not qualify for state aid.

“It would have been very simple to put something (on the DEO website) that said, ‘Independent contractors, gig workers, freelancers: do not apply on this application at this time. More information to come’,” Hosper told News 6. “I wouldn’t have wasted my time. And I wouldn’t have wasted the time of DEO because they clearly had to go through all of those applications.”

Hosper said her colleagues in the fashion photography industry have also had trouble getting information about federal unemployment assistance.

“I work on set with models, hair and make-up, photographers, all people who are self-contractors,” Hosper said. “They all did what I did. They went on (the state website) and applied for unemployment benefits, because that was their understanding.”

Nearly a month after first trying to apply for unemployment assistance, Hosper is ready for the money to flow.

“My bills are continuing to come in. That’s not stopping,” she said. “I was getting very stressed about it, only because I felt it was completely out of my control.”


About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.