NYS Labor Dept. explains why so many self-employed New Yorkers still haven’t received unemployment

Local News

CENTRAL NEW YORK, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Navigating unemployment can be confusing and frustrating but for those self-employed, like the people who operate hair salons, they’re running out of time and money.

“We’re going onto seven weeks, no income,” said Alisha Dunlavey, a hair designer and booth renter at Diva’s Hair Boutique in Cicero.

A similar story for Maria Clemente, the owner of Hair to Dye For in Syracuse. “We feel alone in this, we really do,” she said.

It’s an issue for many self-employed New Yorkers: being denied standard unemployment insurance.

The New York State Department of Labor tells NewsChannel 9’s Nicole Sommavilla it has to do with issues at the federal level.

On March 27, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was made available but it wasn’t until April 5 that the state was given guidance from the feds to process those.

To alleviate the backlog, New York launched a new application on April 20, allowing the state to pick the category (Unemployment or PUA) claimants fall under.

“Let’s all remember that, before the end of March, PUA did not exist — there was no Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, ever. And this population were people pretty much unknown to unemployment insurance because they wouldn’t have qualified [before]… So when they passed the CARES Act and set up the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, there was a scramble in all 50 states to understand what the program was, to get the guidance from the federal government, which was slow to come and was conflicting in its first instance — we finally got it straightened out, but originally the federal government had said you had to apply for regular unemployment insurance, and be denied, and then fill out another application in order to apply for PUA. We worked with the federal government, we now have one streamlined application process here in New York State… I’m very happy to say that New York State is paying PUA, that we are getting money out the door, and more money is going to go out the door every day. And we are actually well ahead of a number of other states — most states actually — some states haven’t even posted their applications yet.”

NYS Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said on April 29

The streamline application should make the process simpler and faster but some people — like Clemente and Dunlavey — are caught in the middle.

They applied before the streamline application went into place and are still waiting for their information to be processed and get paid. Both women tell NewsChannel 9 they understand it takes time and this pandemic is something new, but they still find this period of limbo unacceptable.

“I’ve closed my doors, I’m not working, I’m doing everything I’m asked but yet, not receiving any income,” said Dunlavey.

“I just want to remind everybody, seven weeks ago, PUA did not exist. And, you know, every state has struggled to figure out how to comply with some cumbersome federal regulations, to begin with… how to define what the process would be to get the money to these people… But you know, we are getting that money out the door, we are getting that money into New Yorkers’ hands… I am going to be happier when I can say everybody’s in and everybody’s getting paid.”

NYS Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said on May 1

When they do finally get paid, it will be retroactive, but they can’t wait much longer.

“The hardest thing I think for a hair designer is actually listening to our clients calling us, and crying,” said Dunlavey. “Hair and beauty are also emotional, it’s not just vanity.”

Based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restart plan, salon doors will likely remain closed until at least phase two. Meanwhile, frustration and bills keep piling up. Stylists fear they’ll be left without an income for even longer, and believe they should be able to reopen in phase one.

“We’ve got our masks, we have our shields, we’ve all bought thermometers for the forehead,” said Clemente. “If we’re all set and we know what to do, why not let us gradually open.”

In the meantime, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon will advocate for any industry to open in phase one to the Governor’s office.

They just have to propose a plan together laying out how their industry could operate safely and responsibly and email contactex@ongov.net. 

McMahon’s office tells NewsChannel 9 it’s best if industries group together and submit one proposal. The County Executive cannot advocate for specific businesses, only industries.

When filing for unemployment, you will also need to certify you’re eligible each week.

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