HOUSTON - Many self-employed people are frustrated. The stimulus bill now qualifies them to receive unemployment benefits during the economic crisis, but many say they're being denied anyway.
RELATED: U.S. unemployment claims hit record 6.6 million amid coronavirus outbreak
The Texas Workforce Commission says it began accepting applications for self-employed workers last week, starting April 12. They say if you were rejected, it's because there are two kinds of unemployment insurance.
Self-employed travel agent Tiffany Burks says, "It said, 'You didn't make enough money to file an unemployment claim.' Well, that's because I'm self-employed and the income doesn't come forward."
Adds Lori Ravelli, who owns a hair salon, "I actually applied and I was denied the monies after being told this is a time that they would approve all of us as stylists to get funds."
WHO’S HIRING: Thousands of Houston-area job openings
The TWC sent us a statement explaining that when self-employed workers apply, they apply for both regular unemployment insurance, which will reject them, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers them.
TWC writes, "They will generally get a notice saying they’ve been rejected. They can ignore this. They will subsequently be approved through the PUC program. It is automatic, and they don’t need to call us back. If we need more information, we will contact them."
TWC spokesman Cisco Gamez added some advice for self-employed applicants in a Facebook livestream, saying, "When you're asked why you're not working, select reduced hours as the separation reason. If reduction is a result of coronavirus COVID-19, mark COVID-19 as the disaster impacted section."
TIMELINE: Texas’ continued response to COVID-19 pandemic
We asked whether small business owners can collect both unemployment benefits and Small Business Administration loans or assistance. Guidance from the Payroll Protection Program Loans says, “participation in the PPP may affect your eligibility for administered unemployment compensation." TWC told us "that answer is on a case by case basis." Applicants are encouraged to ask both agencies about their eligibility.
"At this point, neither one has come through, so either one would be fine, just to help with anything," said Burks.
Anyone seeking unemployment insurance can apply online at ui.texasworkforce.org.
TWC is getting ready to open an eighth call center. All call centers are now operating from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week. TWC has processed more than 1.2 million applications for benefits since March 14.