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Coronavirus Unemployment: Help for the Self-Employed

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — You may have seen the memes joking about how we'll all look without the hair and nail salons that were ordered closed by the governor.

But the reality is no joke. CBS13 spoke with some of the more than half a million Californians in the cosmetology industry who are desperate for answers and unemployment help.

While millions of Americans now qualify for unemployment benefits and disability, millions who are self-employed don't. Many who were already living paycheck-to-paycheck have decided to keep on working despite the stay-at-home order because they say they need the money to survive.

READ: Employee At Sacramento Blue Diamond Growers Facility Tests Positive For Coronavirus

While some stylists we spoke to are abiding by the stay-at-home order, they understand why others in the beauty industry say they can't.

"There's talk of small business loans, but many can't afford to take on more debt and are now burning through savings without work or government assistance, said stylist Danielle Molkenbuhr.

Unlike regular employees, who can file for unemployment because either they or their employer pay into the fund with each paycheck, independent contractors often pay higher taxes, but that doesn't include unemployment.

About 7% of the workforce was self-employed last year – which includes the vast majority of more than 600,000 with barbering and cosmetology licenses.

Enter Disaster Unemployment Assistance, which according to this fact sheet from the state, "is generally available to any unemployed worker or self-employed individual who lived, worked, or was scheduled to work in the disaster area at the time of the disaster."

The President declared a disaster this weekend, however the State's COVID-19 Unemployment guidance still makes no mention of the benefits.

CBS13 reached out to the EDD and the governor's office on Sunday when the disaster was announced, and the EDD finally got back to us with the following response late Tuesday:

"The federal disaster declaration doesn't automatically initiate the availability of Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). The EDD will advise as soon as we have word on that. We are keeping an eye on any developments coming out of Washington DC and any particular requirements that may accompany the availability of DUA if indeed it is authorized."

UPDATE 3/25/20: 

Wednesday, Governor Newsom clarified in a press conference that the federal stimulus package will supplement state unemployment  benefits. Californians who are already getting unemployment, may get up to an additional $600 a week from the feds -- up to $1050 total.

Self-employed Californians will also qualify for that $600 a week for up to four months, but there was no mention of the Disaster Unemployment Assistance, which could provide the self-employed with the same benefits as the rest of us.

You can read more about how to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance here:

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