Some freelancers, gig workers and self-employed people who lost work due to the pandemic will soon see a sizable boost to their weekly unemployment benefits.
The new $900 billion stimulus package authorizes enhanced unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans, totalling $400 per week for some “mixed earners,” whose income is based on W-2 employment plus independent contract work and/or self-employment.
The new law revived the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program initially created by the first stimulus deal. FPUC provides a $300 per week boost to those who receive at least $1 in unemployment aid. A new program called Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) provides an additional $100 per week to some mixed earners receiving Unemployment Insurance.
In a guidance letter sent out to state unemployment agencies, The Department of Labor confirmed that eligible UI beneficiaries will receive both boosts, accounting for an increase of $400 to their weekly unemployment checks.
Here’s a look at who’s getting the money and why.
What Is Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)?
Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation is a $100 supplement to weekly Unemployment Insurance payments, only available if you worked a W-2 job and earned at least $5,000 through a side gig or self employment during the tax year used to make your initial unemployment claim.
If you are eligible for the $100 MEUC supplement, you are automatically eligible for the $300 FPUC enhancement, too.
“The Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation benefit is designed to provide financial assistance to gig workers, freelancers, and other self-employed individuals who were unintentionally left out of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program due to technically qualifying for traditional state unemployment,” according to MixedIncome.org.
In other words, as a mixed income earner, your state may have approved you for traditional Unemployment Insurance based on the earnings of only your W-2 job — not accounting for your side hustle income. The MEUC program seeks to remedy that scenario.
According to MixedIncome.org, 47 states have agreed to provide $100 MEUC benefits. The three states that have not opted into the program are Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota.
Both FPUC ($300) and MEUC ($100) payments are available weekly between Dec. 26, 2020, and March 14, 2021. Both benefits are available retroactively for a total of 11 weeks.
To receive MEUC benefits, you must submit income documentation to your state’s labor department.
While $300 FPUC payments are automatic, you must prove that you earned at least $5,000 in self-employed income to receive MEUC payments. Each state taking part in the program is required to alert you with specific submission instructions. To prepare, you should start compiling 1099 or 1040 tax forms, ledgers, payment summaries through gig apps — basically any and all documents that show your earnings.
Because local unemployment agencies must collect and verify additional information, it’s likely the MEUC benefits will take several weeks to kick in.
“We need to be clear it is unlikely that eligible claimants will immediately begin seeing these benefits,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training John Pallasch in a DOL announcement.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.