What can I do if I have lost my job or had my hours cut due to COVID-19?
Apply for unemployment insurance. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) is waiving many of its normal eligibility requirements due to the pandemic, so Colorado workers should apply even if you’re not sure if you qualify. Towards Justice and its allies are advocating for further extension of these benefits.
For residents of other states, the federal 2020 CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) enhanced and expanded unemployment insurance to workers through an emergency assistance program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Again, workers should apply for assistance even if you’re not sure you qualify. Qualifications for PUA include:
- You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
- You had to quit your job(s) because you have been diagnosed by a medical professional as having COVID-19 and have been instructed by them to quarantine.
- You have been instructed to quarantine because you came in direct contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
- You had to quit your job(s) as a direct result of COVID-19 or because you have tested positive for COVID-19 and, after the infection passed, you developed health complications that make it impossible for you to perform your old job(s).
- You refuse to return to work due to: (1) unsatisfactory or hazardous working conditions based on your status as a member of a vulnerable group, or (2) unsatisfactory or hazardous working conditions because you reside with a person who is a member of a vulnerable group.
- You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- You have primary caregiving responsibility for a child or other person in your home who is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and that caregiving prevents you from working at your job(s).
- You are unable to reach your place of employment because of a quarantine restriction imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency or because you have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- You were scheduled to begin a job but now cannot due to the pandemic.
- You have become the breadwinner or major supporter of a household because the previous head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
- Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- You are classified as an independent contractor or are self-employed and are unemployed, partially employed, or otherwise unable or unavailable to work because the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to do the work you usually do.
Can I apply for unemployment insurance even if my employer says I am an independent contractor?
Yes. You should apply for unemployment insurance regardless of independent contractor status. Know that many workers who are told they are independent contractors are actually employees who qualify for unemployment insurance, so apply and allow the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) to determine your entitlement. Plus, if you are properly categorized as an independent contractor and authorized to work in the United States, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
What can I do if I work for myself?
You are likely still eligible for unemployment benefits (see above) and should apply. Even workers who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance—including self-employed individuals—are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) if they are authorized to work in the United States; the new federal law explicitly allows up to 39 weeks of benefit payments to freelancers and self-employed people. For Colorado workers, the Department of Labor and Employment has more information on eligibility, benefits, and how to apply. Freelancers and self-employed workers may also be eligible for loan assistance through the federal CARES Act; the U.S. Small Business Administration has more information.
Can I apply for unemployment insurance if I am an immigrant with work authorization (such as a visa) or a DACA recipient?
Yes. Colorado law requires anyone 18 years of age or older to provide proof that they are lawfully present in the United States in order to receive unemployment benefits, and most other states have similar requirements. So, a worker authorized to work in the United States both during employment and after losing the job is eligible for unemployment insurance. If you have a currently valid work visa and could begin a new job given the opportunity, we recommend you apply for unemployment insurance.
Can I apply for unemployment insurance if I am undocumented?
No. Undocumented workers are not eligible to apply for unemployment in Colorado or in the United States, although you may be eligible for other cash benefits through private sources like the Left Behind Workers Fund.