Many people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic and may have trouble affording basic necessities. People who are self-employed have been especially hard-hit and do not qualify for employment benefits, including rideshare drivers, artists, freelancers, and others. Thankfully, the government has prioritized protecting workers and has expanded access to benefits to a broader swath of workers, including people who are self-employed.
If you are a rideshare driver who is having trouble paying your rent, utilities, and other basic expenses, Swartz Swidler might help you to identify sources of financial assistance to help you make it through the pandemic.
Unemployment for rideshare drivers
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES ACT was passed in March 2020 to provide relief to people affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including self-employed people like Uber drivers.
Under ordinary circumstances, people who are self-employed do not qualify for unemployment benefits. This is because employers pay unemployment taxes to fund the system for the benefit of their employees, and self-employed people do not pay into the system. However, the CARES Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program or PUA, which provides federal unemployment assistance to workers who have lost their jobs or have suffered significant reductions in income because of the pandemic, including those who are self-employed, people looking for part-time jobs, and those who do not have a sufficient work history to qualify for regular unemployment benefits.
Rideshare drivers are eligible for unemployment under the following circumstances:
- Being quarantined
- Being exposed to COVID-19 and self-isolating
- Experiencing COVD-19 symptoms
- Caring for a family member who has COVID-19
- Caring for your child who cannot attend school because of COVID-19
The PUA has been extended and is now scheduled to end on March 14, 2021. However, the coronavirus relief package proposed by President Biden would extend benefits beyond that date if it passes. To apply, you will need to go through your state’s unemployment office.
Grants and loans
New grants and loans were made available through the CARES Act and have been extended through other legislation. You can learn more about the various options on the website of the Small Business Administration.
One type of loan that might be available to rideshare drivers is the COVID economic injury disaster loan. This loan is designed to help sole proprietors, small businesses, and others during the COVID-19 pandemic who have suffered a substantial loss of revenue.
Direct payments are also a potential option. The CARES Act provided direct payments of $1,200 for each adult and another $500 for each child up to age 17 for individuals earning up to $75,000 or couples earning up to $150,000. After those amounts, the payments phased down. Congress passed the second round of direct payments of $600 in December 2020. If President Biden’s relief package passes, individuals earning up to $75,000 will receive an additional $1,400 direct payment with another $1,400 per child. Some form of the bill is expected to pass in March.
Financial assistance from rideshare companies
If you drive for Uber, you can receive up to 14 days of financial help if you have COVID-19 or have been quarantined by a local health authority. Your payments will be based on the average daily earnings you have enjoyed over the past six months. You should look at the Uber website to learn more about the support the company is offering to drivers during the pandemic.
Self-employment tax credits
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides a tax credit of up to 100% of the average daily earnings of self-employed people who have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking treatment. The tax credit is also available if you have been ordered by a health authority to self-isolate or quarantine.
If you have to care for one of your family members who has COVID-19 or who has been told to self-isolate, you are also eligible for a tax credit of two-thirds of your average daily earnings up to $200 each day. Similarly, you are also eligible if you have to care for a child who is unable to attend school due to a coronavirus-related closure.
You can claim these credits by adjusting the amount of your estimated tax payment to the IRS. When you file your 2020 tax return, claim the credit on your tax form.
Health care coverage
While the regular enrollment period for coverage under the Affordable Care Act ended on Dec. 15, 2020, President Biden signed an executive order to open a special enrollment period for three months beginning on Feb. 15, 2021, through May 15, 2021. You can sign up for a plan during those three months so that you can have health care coverage.
Crowdfunding and nonprofit help
Many nonprofit organizations offer assistance to people who are struggling during the pandemic. There might be a number of organizations operating in your neighborhood or city. The Gig Workers Collective also provides a list of organizations that provide many different types of assistance to people that you can find here.
One Fair Wage Emergency Fund is another potential source for financial help. It provides financial assistance to service workers, gig workers, tipped workers, and restaurant workers who have suffered financial problems because of the pandemic.
Finally, crowdfunding sites might be an option. You can organize a GoFundMe or use an alternative site to try to raise money if you are struggling.
Talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler
At Swartz Swidler, we are available to help you identify and obtain the benefits to which you should be entitled. Contact us today for help with any legal concerns you might have regarding the coronavirus pandemic at 856.685.7420.