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New process helps gig workers apply for jobless benefits

Brian Krauss of Bethpage, a driver for DoorDash,

Brian Krauss of Bethpage, a driver for DoorDash, Grubhub and Shipt, said he's been stuck in a "limbo state" since applying for PUA over two weeks ago. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Uber and Lyft drivers and other gig workers, along with independent contractors and self-employed New Yorkers, will have an easier time applying for unemployment benefits under a new procedure launched this week.

The New York State Department of Labor has rolled out a new process for these workers to apply for benefits if their livelihoods have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Such workers, who have traditionally not been eligible for jobless benefits, are now eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a financial relief program included in the federal CARES Act.

Prior to the application update, gig workers for companies like Uber or Lyft, the self-employed, and independent contractors had to apply for and be rejected for traditional unemployment before applying for PUA. Now, they can apply for PUA outright.

The new system, at unemployment.labor.ny.gov, determines which program New Yorkers  are eligible for as they answer questions in the online application, funneling their application to the correct program.

Long Islanders who applied for PUA prior to the change said they have been frustrated by the system so far.

Brian Krauss of Bethpage, a driver for DoorDash, Grubhub and Shipt, said he's been stuck in a "limbo state" since applying over two weeks ago. He stopped working in March for safety reasons and to look after his two young sons while his wife works from home.

The application process “[struck] me as cobbled together," he said Tuesday.

Krauss said he was told to expect a call after filing his application online. "No person has called me,” he said. There's been a lack of "clarity regarding the length of time it’s going to take."

Jerry O'Neill, an associate broker at Signature Premier Properties in Amity Habor, said neither he nor his fellow real estate agents have had any luck with receiving funds through PUA yet.

“We were told that if you were rejected from basic unemployment, you could apply through the PUA,” said O'Neill, who applied last week.

He said he doesn’t know anyone “that has succeeded in getting any satisfaction under the next step of the PUA.”

This week's update to the application process is the latest in a series of efforts the DOL has made to to respond to the unprecedented demand for unemployment aid in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We know that many New Yorkers are still facing an uncertain economic future, and the Department of Labor will continue to dedicate every resource available to helping New Yorkers weather this storm,” Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a statement released Monday.


 

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