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This is an ongoing FAQ for questions about applying for Minnesota Unemployment Insurance benefits for individual artists, with a focus on freelancers and contractors.

As with Springboard's primary coronavirus page, this is an evolving list of resources for information, exchange, and support in this time. Accuracy at any given point cannot be guaranteed, as much has changed since this FAQ was originally created in March 2020. We've continued to update it regularly, but facts do change. If you have updates or resources to add, please send them to legal@springboardforthearts.org.

Please consult a lawyer, accountant or other professional before making any decisions! The information on this page is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional advice. To find a lawyer, please see our primary MnLA page.

Thanks for assistance and input from Iverson Felsheim Law, Avisen Legal PA, Stinson LLP, Grell Feist PLC and Brittney Gruszynski and Emily Vaillancourt from the University of Minnesota Leadership Minor Field Program.

Last updated April 2021.

The basics

What should my first step be?

If you haven't already, please review this step-by-step PDF guide to applying for freelancers and contractors. It outlines the entire process from beginning to end. You can also review Minnesota Unemployment Insurance's Information Handbook here. The material on this page is meant only to supplement the information there. The only place to receive completely accurate information on the process is by speaking to a customer service representative with Minnesota Unemployment Insurance.

I’ve lost freelance or contract work. Am I eligible for unemployment compensation?

Yes. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits for self-employed workers began April 24, 2020, and has been available since that time. Please see the original press release from 2020 here. The PUA program provides weekly benefit payments for those who are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits in Minnesota or any other state, such a freelancers and contractors. 

Under the original CARES Act in 2020, PUA benefits were available for a maximum of 39 weeks and were set to expire on December 26, 2020. However, Congress has extended the PUA program several times since then, and as of Summer 2021, PUA benefits are now available through September 6, 2021.

Here is a summary from the Department of Employment and Economic Development:

+ If you have already applied for regular unemployment benefits, you do not need to do anything extra to qualify for PUA. DEED will automatically establish a PUA benefit account for you if you are eligible.

+ If you have not applied for unemployment benefits yet, special instructions for self-employed and 1099 workers are available here . These instructions include steps you can take to make your account easily identifiable as potentially eligible for PUA.

+ If you applied for unemployment benefits without following those instructions, don’t worry – you don’t need to change anything. Your account will still be reviewed for PUA eligibility.

+ If you have not heard from DEED yet, don’t worry. There is no need to call or follow-up; you will hear from us proactively if we need additional information to determine eligibility.

+ You will receive information about PUA benefits in your online account, by email, and by mail.

+ PUA benefits will be backdated to whenever you first became eligible due to COVID-19.

I have lost or had reduced hours for both freelance and part-time or full-time jobs. Can I apply?

Yes, you can apply. Any individual with W-2s (tax forms issued for full-time or part-time work, where taxes are withheld) and 1099s (tax forms issued for contract or freelance jobs) in Minnesota should apply for unemployment benefits on the same Minnesota Unemployment website: https://www.uimn.org/applicants/index.jsp  You must report all wages earned, whether they’re W-2 or 1099 wages.

In the past, state unemployment benefits were only available to W-2 employees. However, an individual that works part-time as a W-2 employee and part-time as an independent contractor will only for traditional state unemployment. If the individual is not eligible for traditional state unemployment benefits, they will be eligible for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

Per the Unemployment Insurance website: "If you received wages from an employer, you may be eligible for regular unemployment benefits. Go to the COVID-19 Information for Workers for more information about regular unemployment benefits. You cannot receive regular or extended benefits and PUA benefits at the same time." However, if you're not eligible for traditional Unemployment Insurance, you may be eligible for PUA.

To qualify for PUA benefits, the individual must not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits and be unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of certain health or economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PUA is generally not payable to individuals who have the ability to telework with pay, or who are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits. 

Weekly PUA benefits will equal the weekly benefit that the individual otherwise would receive under the applicable Minnesota state law.

What if I have lost both 1099 and W-2 jobs, but my freelance income was much larger than my W-2 work?

You're what's known as a "mixed earner." Originally, if you were eligible through an employer (your W-2 wages) you were not eligible for the PUA through your 1099 employment, no matter how much 1099 employment you were engaged in. For example, if lost a part-time arts administrative job that brought in $20,000 a year, but also lost work as a freelance designer that brought in $30,000 a year, you'd only be eligible for benefits from the $20,000 a year job.

However, as of winter 2021, there was some relief on this issue through the hard work of a coalition of professional organizations. The American Rescue Plan Act recently signed by President Biden extended a $100 supplemental unemployment benefit for mixed earners through September 6, 2021. This federally funded $100 per week Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) additional benefit is extended to individuals who have at least $5,000 a year in self-employment (1099) income, but are being paid based on employee (W2) earnings. Learn more about this issue here.

Is there anything else I can do if I'm in this situation?

You can use this form and language to contact your Senators and Representative to ensure self-employed artists with W-2 income continue to receive fair unemployment benefits that take into account both 1099 and W-2 income. The Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) was a victory, but there's more to be done. Email or call your legislators, and call on them to take action. Please share your own experiences as a mixed-income worker. At a time when the COVID crisis has led to cancelled performances and millions in lost revenue, all Minnesota artists need fair access to unemployment benefits. Find your legislators' contact information here. You can follow the legislation here.

How do I fill out the application form?

You use the same form on the MN Unemployment Insurance website, where you will have the opportunity to list both W-2 and 1099 income. Please see the step-by-step guide here.

On Step 20 and 21, you’ll list your previous work history for the past 18 months. For artists and self-employed workers, this could be a long list, and it may take you a bit of time to pull this information together. You'd want to have your 1099s from 2019, your 2019 W-2 (if you had one), pay stubs from 2019 and 2020, and your Form 1040 (U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) from 2019 and/or 2020, if available. 

List employment income on the first chart that reads W-2, as noted on Step 20 here. You will then list Self-Employment on Step 23 of the same document.

Important! On Step 20, be sure you're only reporting "Employers" as companies you received a W-2 from. This does not include companies you've been independently contracted by, and/or received 1099s from.

What if I have a contract or job offer rescinded due to COVID-19?

Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If you are not able to start a job as scheduled, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits (assuming you meet other monetary and eligibility requirements). You should go ahead and apply. [source]

What do I do if I live in one state, and work in another?

To receive unemployment insurance benefits, you need to file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you worked. Depending on the state, claims may be filed in person, by telephone, or online. (In Minnesota, it’s strongly suggested you apply online.) If you worked in a state other than Minnesota, or if you worked in multiple states, the state unemployment insurance agency where you now live can provide information about how to file your claim with other states. 

Are UI benefits taxable income? 

Yes, to an extent. Taxes will not be withheld on any benefits, either federal or state. You should report what you’re receiving, and you will have to request that taxes be withheld from their benefits. The withholding is limited to 10%.

Please note, however, that the recent American Rescue Plan Act waives federal income taxes on up to $10,200 in unemployment insurance benefits for people who earn under $150,000 a year.

Do I need to have filed my 2019 or 2020 taxes to apply?

No. 

I am having trouble with my form and I can't get through to the UI office. Who can I contact?

A call to the UI customer service line should still be your first try. Mornings and later in the week tend to be best. You may also wish to consider sending a brief letter or fax explaining your situation to UI at P.O. Box 4629, St. Paul, MN 55101-4629, or by fax at 651-205-4007.

If you have already applied, and have a particularly complex employment issue you're not able to figure out, is affecting your payment and you still can't get a hold of someone, contact your State Representative or State Senator's office directly for assistance. Find your legislators' contact information here.

Online forms and application process

How do I make corrections to a form once I’ve already submitted it?

The best way is to make an appeal by phone. It’s known as an “appeal,” but it’s not as intimidating as that might sound. It may take a while to get through, but your appeal will be reviewed, and the UI office will get in touch with you as quickly as possible. Remember to call on days other than Monday, and days following a major announcement from the state leadership (i.e., an extension of the shelter in place order), as those days have the highest call volumes. Calling in the afternoons also seems to be faster.

What do I do if I see "preliminary estimates of $ 0.00" in my account?

Don’t worry! That is an indication that the application is still being processed. It will be updated. [source]

What category of employment do I choose?

Use the one that best describes your work. The Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media category breaks down into these subcategories: Actors, Producers, and Directors; Announcers; Artists and Related Workers; Athletes, Coaches, Umpires, and Related Workers; Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians and Radio Operators; Dancers and Choreographers; Designers; Miscellaneous Entertainers and Performers, Sports and Related Workers; Miscellaneous Media and Communication Equipment Workers; Miscellaneous Media and Communication Workers; Musicians, Singers, and Related Workers; News Analysts, Reporters and Correspondents; Photographers; Public Relations Specialists; Television, Video, and Motion Picture Camera Operators and Editors; Writers and Editors [source]

If my business is an S-corp or an LLC, will I need to enter my EIN?

No. You will need to if you are identifying your employer, but not as far as where the form is asking for your social security number. You are applying for these benefits personally.

Self-employment and 1099s

If I choose the "self-employment" option, do I list every company that issued me a 1099 as an employer? Or can I add all of that total income up in one sum?

Until we receive further guidance on this question from UI, we suggest you group all your self-employment income in a lump sum based on your 2019 tax returns. Please check back for more information.

As a freelancer, is my “pay rate” based on my income from my 1099 work from 2019? Should I list it by hour, week, month or year? 

Until we receive further guidance on this question from UI, we suggest your "pay rate" be calculated based on your total annual self-employment income in a lump sum, based on your 2019 tax returns. Please check back for more information.

How do I calculate "hours worked" as a freelancer once I am successfully signed up?

If you haven't been actively engaged in physically creating work or providing contracted services for that week, you should report your hours worked as zero.

Long-term unemployment

I've been unemployed since last year, and my PUA benefits are now exhausted. What now?

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is the federal extension program for people who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. PEUC was originally created by the CARES Act in March 2020, and the benefits were available for a maximum of 13 weeks, with an expiration date of December 26, 2020.

However, recent legislation has extended the PEUC program. These benefits are now available through September 6, 2021. If you are already receiving PEUC, MN Unemployment Insurance has already updated your account to reflect the PEUC extension. Keep requesting payment each week you are unemployed.

Employers

If I’m an employee of a payroll company, though I am doing work for different production companies or teaching in schools, am I still considered “self-employed”? Or am I an employee of that payroll company?

If you receive W-2 wages from the payroll company, you are considered an employee of the payroll company. Use their information when applying.

With a payroll company, are we supposed to provide start/finish dates for each individual gig for which we were paid through X payroll company, or just a blanket start/finish date for that one payroll company?

List the date as when you first started with the employer on their payroll, and when your most recent job ended. UI is pulling information from those employers based on when they filed unemployment insurance for you, so it’ll be based on the information the employer has provided.

Immigration and work visas

Does applying for unemployment affect future ability to receive a green card or citizenship? 

Unemployment benefits should not render immigrants “inadmissible” under the “public charge rule." Unemployment benefits are considered an “earned benefit,” and therefore, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) has said that it shouldn’t impact the “public charge” considerations. That said, there are some gray areas around the “public charge” green card issue are complex enough that individualized advice is recommended.

Are immigrants eligible for unemployment benefits?

Eligibility for unemployment is a different question, and somewhat nuanced. Generally speaking, if you have an employer-specific work visa, then you will not be eligible because you aren’t available to work for any employer. However, the question of eligibility is complex enough that individualized advice is recommended. 

Other income

There's a box on the UI form I have to check asking if I made "income over and above regular wages"? Does that include self-employment?

No. Your self-employment income is just regular income. The "extra income" or "other income" is related to things like severance pay, COVID-19 pay, pensions, Social Security Disability, worker's comp, etc.

Does receipt of emergency assistance grants (i.e., from other federal or state relief programs) impact contractors applying for benefits?

If the emergency relief is used for paying a salary to yourself as a small business or nonprofit, that would affect the benefit. 

I receive free or discounted insurance via MNSure (Medical Assistance, MNCare, tax credit). Will unemployment affect my benefits?

Income changes may affect the amount of financial assistance and/or the type of health insurance plan you're eligible for. If you're newly receiving unemployment or other money, you must report those changes. Report changes in income due to a new job, if you lose a job, a change in your current income or change to your projected annual income. This includes unemployment benefits.

I've received an artist grant, stipend or fellowship. What should I report that?

Payments such as fellowships, awards or prizes that are awarded based on artistic merit and are not contracted for a specific amount of hours worked are not deductible from UI eligibility and do not count toward income.

Please note that this does not include contracted freelance work, which count as “self-employment income” or "rent, goods or services" an applicant receives for working. The guidance from the UI office is that "you must report your earnings for the week you perform the work, not when you are paid for it." For self-employment, report your weekly earnings after you deduct your direct business expenses for that week.

Does receipt of an emergency assistance grant from Springboard's Emergency Relief Fund (ERF) impact benefits?

This question isn't answered specifically on the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance website, but it does not seem that the payment would impact your unemployment benefits.

Springboard does not issue 1099s for ERF payments. These relief fund payments are considered a gift, rather than a fee for service or contract. Gifts are not considered part of gross income, as long as the gift is under $14,000. Minnesota's UI website does not state that an individual applying for unemployment needs to list any gifts they receive. Therefore, the $500 emergency relief payment should not affect unemployment benefits.

Springboard Staff

Artist Resources Director
Donate to the Emergency Relief Fund

We have set up a fundraiser to expand the Personal Emergency Relief Fund, so that we can continue to support artists, contractors, and freelancers in Minnesota who have lost income due to Coronavirus/COVID-19. Please click below to give online, or send a check to:

Springboard for the Arts
Attn: Individual Giving
262 University Avenue West
Saint Paul, MN 55103

If you have any questions about individual giving, please contact Katie Hae Leo, Development Director, at katiehl@springboardforthearts, or 651-292-4381.

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