Arkansas opening unemployment benefits for self-employed, independent contractors

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Updated: May. 4, 2020 at 11:01 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Arkansans who are self-employed workers or independent contractors and out of work because of COVID-19 can apply for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) beginning Tuesday, May 5.

The WMC Investigators uncovered that the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, and other state labor departments, had not been capable of accepting applications for this group of workers.

Applicants may now apply online 7 days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. by visiting

Self-employed workers, independent contractors, non-profit employees, gig economy workers, other individuals who work for employers exempt from participating in the regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, part-time workers without enough work history to qualify for regular UI benefits, and individuals impacted by COVID-19 but not eligible for regular UI benefits due to a prior disqualification can now apply.

The program provides up to 39 weeks of benefits with weekly payments ranging from $133 to $451, based on income from the 2019 tax year.

The assistance period begins with the week ending February 8, 2020 and ends with the week ending December 26, 2020.

For those who qualify, the program will apply retroactively to the date they became unemployed due to a qualifying COVID-19 related reason. Benefits cannot be paid for any time period prior to February 8 and cannot be paid for any time after December 26.

PUA recipients will also automatically qualify for an additional $600 each week for the first 13 weeks of eligibility under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

This will apply from April 4 through July 25.

“The PUA program will sustain thousands of hard-working, entrepreneurial Arkansans that have lost income due to the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. “We understand the economic burden on the self-employed and the sense of urgency for financial relief. We’ve assembled a team that understands this need and looks forward to serving their fellow Arkansans.”

“COVID-19 slammed the brakes on our state’s thriving economy, which included a growing number of self-employed Arkansans and independent contractors,” said Mike Preston, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce. “This is a critical segment of Arkansas’ workforce and we want to ensure everyone who is eligible for these funds takes advantage of this support.”

To learn more about the eligibility requirements, or to file your application for PUA benefits, please go to or call 1-844-908-2178 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST).

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