Expanded Unemployment Benefits for the Self-Employed and Others

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced the publication of the Unemployment Insurance Program Letter (UIPL) providing guidance to states for implementation of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, a provision under Section 2102 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provides temporary “unemployment” assistance to those individuals not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits, and affected by COVID-19, including the self-employed, independent contractors, and gig workers. 


Eligibility appears very broad. Section 2102 provides for payment of PUA to “covered individuals,” defined as individuals not qualified for regular unemployment compensation, extended benefits under state or federal law, or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), including those who have exhausted all rights to such benefits. Individuals seeking part-time employment, individuals lacking sufficient work history, or those otherwise not qualified for regular UC, extended benefits under state or federal law, or PEUC  are also included. For purposes of PUA coverage, an individual “lacking sufficient work history” means an individual (1) with a recent attachment to the labor force (2) who does not have sufficient wages in covered employment during the last 18 months to establish a claim under regular UC, and (3) who became unemployed or partially unemployed because of one of the COVID-19 related reasons identified under Section 2102. 

Examples of Inability to Work

Under Section 2102, reasons for an inability to work include:

  • The individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis; 
  • The individual is providing care for a family member or member of the individual’s household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; 
  • A child or other person in the household for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work; 
  • The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; 
  • The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

A qualified individual’s benefit equals the amount the person would have otherwise received under state law plus $600. Section 2102, however, explicitly excludes from coverage individuals who can work remotely with pay and individuals who are receiving paid sick leave or other benefits (even if they would otherwise qualify for unemployment under the CARES Act).

Further Information

The process for applying for these benefits will vary from state to state. For more information on whether you may qualify for Section 2102 benefits, and how to apply, please contact the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training or the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance.

If you have any questions, please reach out via e-mail, give us a call at (401) 921-2000, or fill out our online contact us form.

For more information on COVID-19 and to get the latest updates, visit our COVID-19 Resources page.