Contractors, self-employed can now apply for federal unemployment through Florida system

Prior to April 22, Floridians who qualified for CARES Act money say they were denied through Florida DEO

FILE - In this March 31, 2020, file photo, Samuel Diaz, a delivery worker for Amazon Prime, loads his vehicle with groceries from Whole Foods, in Miami, during the COVID-19 pandemic. A leap in U.S. unemployment has thrown a spotlight on one type of work still in high demand during the coronavirus pandemic: Gig work delivering groceries, meals and packages. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nearly a month after President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act into law, giving federal unemployment benefits to millions of gig workers, contractors and the self-employed, Floridians will now be able to apply for those benefits through the state department that handles unemployment.

In an interview Wednesday, Florida Department of Management Services Secretary John Satter, who is leading the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity through its coronavirus unemployment surge, said the state is now ready to start receiving applications from people who qualify for federal unemployment benefits.

Although those workers are not eligible for state unemployment money, the federal CARES Act signed into law March 27 provides a $600 weekly payment, as well as an additional weekly payment of a maximum of $275, depending on the claimant’s prior wages.

“They will go through the same process as anyone would for the state unemployment process,” Satter said.

[RELATED: Floridians who struggled to file for unemployment will receive retroactive benefits]

Prior to Wednesday, freelance and contract workers who applied through the DEO application system called CONNECT told News 6 they were denied due to their ineligibility for state funds.

The DEO website’s frequently asked questions section has been undergoing daily changes and now has information for people who qualify for CARES Act benefits. Here’s a link to the most recent guide, which includes guidance for CARES Act applicants.

According to the DEO, contractors and the like are eligible for $600 a week, plus up to $275 a week in federal benefits. The $275 from the CARES Act covers what those workers would have been paid if they qualified for state benefits. These benefits are available to those who filed claims from March 29, 2020 through July 31, 2020.

Satter also told News 6 the DEO will provide retroactive state unemployment benefits to those who’ve lost jobs since March 9, regardless of when they were able to submit their application.

Satter was unable to provide a timeline for when CARES Act applicants could see payments.

“We don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver,” Satter said. “Secondly, it’s very important that we be transparent with what we’re accomplishing every day.”

According to an Associated Press analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data, nearly seven of every eight Floridians who managed to file claims during the three weeks from mid-March until early April were waiting to have them processed — the worst rate in the country. According to the DEO, about 14% of more than 664,000 verified claims had been paid as of Wednesday.

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About the Authors:

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