I’m a self-employed individual working in an industry that was not considered “essential.” Lately, I’ve found myself wondering, “Who is going to pay my bills?”
I know that I qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. As a self-employed American whose income was decimated by the pandemic, I should be getting money. However, actually receiving the money that I was promised is proving to be a very slow process.
I applied for unemployment in the states of New York and New Jersey, since I worked in both states, and could not contact anyone at either unemployment office to determine which state I should apply in. I didn’t want to apply in the wrong state and have to start all over again. Hence, the redundancy.
New Jersey, I come to find out today, has not even instituted their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance portal or program, and no one in New Jersey has even been able to actually apply for benefits.
Even though I applied for unemployment benefits, in order to qualify for PUA, I had to be denied the usual state UI benefits first, as does everyone else.
As of this writing, the status of my claim in both states is “pending,” despite the fact that I spoke with a liaison from the New York Department of Labor who said they were going to complete my claim on their side, and my status would be updated within three business days. That was two weeks ago. My status hasn’t yet changed.
Instead of being able to move ahead to the next process, I found this map on CNBC that shows that my state (New York) has instituted their PUA benefit portal for unemployed gig, freelance, and self-employed workers. New York has also stated that they have started paying benefits.
This disagrees with another article I read from two days before the CNBC article, on Vox, which states that New York has started accepting applications for PUA but has yet to make any payments since their portal is not completed yet.
One last question, that I have yet to find an answer to: Whose brilliant idea was it to make everyone who needs and qualifies for PUA apply through the states’ UI departments?
Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said to Bloomberg, Law on April 17th “Quite frankly, if the Federal government or Congress would have asked pretty much any Department of Labor in any state in the nation if this was a good idea, they would have told them, ‘no.’”
Everyone knows, at least anyone who paid attention back in 2008 during the Great Recession, that the states’ systems are woefully inadequate under a heavy load of applicants, as would be the case when many people seek benefits at the same time. Like now.
Not only are these state systems antiquated, but when people actually try to use them, web portals crash, phones disconnect, and people are locked out. This seems to happen with unusual frequency.
Since all labor departments have closed their in-person offices, computers and phones are the sole means people can use to apply. The phone systems do not work at all, and the computer system is spotty and unreliable.
In addition to that, New Jersey keeps changing their unemployment filing schedule. This means that, based on your social security number, you can only certify for your weekly benefits during two half hour windows, one day a week. Add to that the fact that the New Jersey Department of Labor keeps changing the schedule without warning, so your day last week won’t be your day next week, and it’s truly a nightmare.
I have started wondering if the decision to have the states involved in the process was politically motivated, as it’s not a secret that the systems would overload, and the end result would be to make President Trump and the Republicans look bad. (I’m not a Trump supporter, by the way. I am apolitical and support no party. I find the whole political thing annoying.)
Both New York and New Jersey are run by Democrat governors. Is this even really an issue of a broken system, or an underhanded way of spiting the President and lowering his approval ratings? Are applications deliberately being “throttled,” keeping the money flowing at a snail’s pace? We can only wonder.
Blame the Democrats for any “lateness” in your Enhanced Unemployment Insurance. I wanted the money to be paid directly, they insisted it be paid by states for distribution. I told them this would happen, especially with many states which have old computers.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2020
On April 27, 2020, President Trump tweeted, “Blame the Democrats for any “lateness” in your Enhanced Unemployment Insurance. I wanted the money to be paid directly, they insisted it be paid by states for distribution. I told them this would happen, especially with many states which have old computers.”
Compare this with having had the Internal Revenue Service managing the PUA. For an idea of how that might have gone, we only have to look at what was done by the IRS with regard to the Economic Stimulus.
In just a few weeks, I.R.S. had built a web portal for non-filers and others to enter their bank account information, and two weeks later, had built a portal to find out when a belated stimulus payment was due to arrive. In my own experience, this system worked accurately, down to the day!
What would have stopped the IRS from building another web portal solely for those who were claiming unemployment under the CARES Act, the PUA? The Federal government is the one paying for the benefits, anyway.
Why the need for a middleman, then? Why did we need the states to step in and do something they were totally unqualified and unprepared to do, when the emergency funding isn’t even from the various states?
That doesn’t even address the distinct possibility of willful sabotage, helping to keep citizens angry and struggling, so that the economy will tank, taking the President’s rating to the bottom with it.
Maybe we need a CARES Act revision for all those self-employed people, gig workers, and freelancers living in the 25-30 states that haven’t implemented a system for PUA yet, to ensure that these people are paid sometime soon.
It’s clear that the Federal government should take over the PUA distribution and create their own website, and maybe we will actually get the money we were promised. After all, we still have to eat in the meantime, and this is a time-sensitive matter.
Is this even doable? Simple as pie. All President Trump has to do is issue an Executive Order authorizing the I.R.S. to create a portal solely for PUA applicants, bypassing the existing state (nonexistent in the states I worked in!) unemployment programs, de-authorizing the states that have already gone ahead and started with the PUA disbursements, along with all those laggard states.
Concerns about anyone being paid twice? That’s what databases are for! If I can be certain my employees aren’t paid twice, it shouldn’t be so difficult to find out who’s been paid already and who hasn’t.
Authored by: Anonymous American Woman & “Never A Candidate” Bill
Edited by Archie Frank