Covid-19 FAQs

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  • I was running my own small company, which still operates at a loss. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I am still the president of my corporation?

If you earn your primary income from working in your own business, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which was created as part of the federal CARES Act that became law on March 27, 2020. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides payment to workers not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, workers with limited work history, and
others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. So if you are otherwise not qualified for regular or extended UI benefits and affected by COVID-19, you should try to apply for PUA payments.

  • My employer company terminated a few people due to covid. My contract stated we are paid for any vacation days, but we are not being paid out for those in the separation agreement. We are being given only a small severance payment and told to sign the agreement ASAP.

I would negotiate with them. You do not have to accept the severance they offered. If your handbook or contracts says you are entitled to a payout of vacation days then they are legally obligated to provide that. In some agreements, the vacation pay is enumerated separately, so it can’t hurt to ask.

  • How does a small business owner apply for the Payroll Protection Program?

More information about the Payroll Protection Program is available at

As initial funding has run out, the application is presently unavailable.

  • I quit my caregiver role because of my concern with contracting COVID-19, given my age/preexisting health issues. Does the CARES act cover me for unemployment?

Yes, we would certainly argue she is eligible under the newly expanded unemployment laws. If your mom’s doctor advised that because of her health conditions she must self-quarantine, she is covered.

  • Do employers have to provide additional time on top of existing leave or can the new leave time be folded into existing policy?

The new leave is on top of the existing leave. It cannot be folded into existing policy. However, the new leave has dollar-for-dollar contemporaneous payroll tax credit – so it should hopefully not be a hardship. If it is a hardship, there are ways to apply for waivers, if you have fewer than 25 employees.

  • What do I need to get together to apply for unemployment?

This is the initial information that is requested when you file for benefits:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your driver license or Motor Vehicle ID card number (if you have either one)
  • Your complete mailing address and zip code
  • A phone number where NYSDOL can reach you from 8 am – 5 pm, Monday –Friday
  • Your Alien Registration card number (if you are not a U.S. Citizen and have a card)
  • Names and addresses of all your employers for the last 18 months, including those in other states.
    • If you were only self-employed and had no other employment in the past 18 months, select “One employer” from the drop-down.
      • When you are asked for the Employer information, write self-employed and your own address and contact information
    • Employer Registration number or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) of your most recent employer.
      • If you are a freelancer, you should leave these blank.
      • For Question #5. “Other than part-time work, on-call work, or owning a single-family rental unit, do you have a business or are you engaged in any activity which brings in or may bring in income?” If you are self-employed but are not currently engaged in any activity which brings or could bring income, select “No”
  • I was on unemployment thru midway of 2019 then reached the limits of my benefits - should the process for me be a bit smoother since I was recently receiving?

Yes, it should be easier if you previously applied for benefits, but the system is very overloaded right now, so please be patient and persistent.

  • Do you do the unemployment online form first (I have heard the system is overloaded but you get into it eventually) and then the phone call? I hear it takes hundreds of calling attempts too - or do they contact you once you filed out the form?

You must complete the DOL’s online form as soon as possible. See for instructions for completing the form as a freelancer or self-employed individual.  As of April 9th, the NYS Department of Labor announced an upgrade and expansion to the online application system to help handle the surge and reduce the need to speak to a claims specialist. If an application cannot be fully processed online, the Department of Labor has instituted a call-back system so that those needing to speak to a specialist will be called when a specialist is available, and the specialist will verify that they are legitimate by providing the applicant’s claim type and filing date. For full details visit:

  • As a freelancer, is there a cut off date to file for unemployment?

There is no cut off date for freelancers or anyone else that I am aware of.

  • I am a self-employed, sole-proprietor whose work has been affected because it is related to construction and people don’t want anyone working in their homes at this time. Would I be eligible for, or do you think I should apply for, any of the new PUA unemployment benefits that are now available through the NY DOL? If not, is there any other place to look to for financial assistance?

Yes, you would be eligible and should apply.  Also, be sure to check out our Unemployment webinar.