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Farmers and 1099 filers might qualify for new COVID-19 unemployment benefits program

By Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program

Farmers aren’t traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits, but that won’t be the case when Ohio’s newest unemployment program opens. We’ve been keeping an eye out for the opening of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which will provide unemployment benefits to persons affected by COVID-19. The program is targeted to persons who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, such as self-employed and 1099 filers. PUA is yet another economic assistance program generated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently passed by Congress.

PUA will provide regular unemployment benefit amounts to qualifying individuals, plus an additional $600 per week for the period of March 29 to July 25, 2020. Qualification doesn’t include a minimum income requirement, but a person must not be eligible for Ohio’s regular unemployment benefits and must not be currently receiving vacation, sick or other paid leave.

The applicant must also be unable to work due to one of the following situations:

• The applicant has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has symptoms and is seeking medical diagnosis;
• A member of the applicant’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
The applicant is providing care for a family or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
• The applicant cannot work due to caring for a child whose school or other facility has closed due to COVID-19;
• The applicant has become the primary support for a household because the head of the household has died due to COVID-19;
• The applicant has quit his or her job, was laid off, or could not begin a new job as a direct result of COVID-19;
• The applicant’s place of employment is closed because of COVID-19.
Applications should open by mid-May, on the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services website. Self-employed individuals will have to submit proof of employment, such as earnings statements that reflect profit and loss, payroll deposits, or a 2019 tax return.

The unemployment benefits will be retroactive to the date of eligibility and will last for no more than 39 weeks, up to December 26, 2020. PUA may also provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits for those who’ve exhausted regular unemployment benefits. To learn more or apply for PUA, visit https://unemploymenthelp.ohio.gov/expandedeligibility/.

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