As an independent contractor, can I apply for unemployment benefits due to COVID-19?

Yes. The CARES Act established two types of unemployment benefits real estate professionals may be eligible for:

  1. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. The FPUC provides $600 per week for up to 13 weeks or until July 31, 2020, and is available regardless of an applicant’s previous income.
  2. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. PUA is based on previous income and provides benefits beginning at $207 up to $521 per week for a maximum of 39 weeks. PUA applicants are eligible for assistance beginning on January 27, 2020, through December 31, 2020, and the benefits may be applied retroactively.

What are the criteria used for determining if I am eligible unemployment compensation?

Applicants must be able to self-certify that their unemployment is due to one of several COVID-19-related circumstances, including the inability to conduct business due to a lack of clients. For example, widespread social distancing undertaken in response to governmental restrictions may so severely reduce customer demand for a real estate professional’s services as to force him to suspend operations, making that professional eligible for assistance.

As an independent contractor, am I eligible for unemployment benefits in addition to a Paycheck Protection Program loan to cover lost income due to COVID-19?

While nothing prohibits an independent contractor from applying for more than one type of pandemic-related aid, keep in mind that eligibility may change based on a change in an applicant’s circumstances. For example, an independent contractor who receives a PPP loan to cover her income she would have received from commissions should not then apply for unemployment compensation for the period covered by the PPP loan. Additionally, there are specific requirements to qualify for repayment forgiveness for the PPP loan, so it is important to speak with your lender to determine what options are best for you. Texas REALTORS® will continue to provide members with all the available options for relief.

See FAQs specific to Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Does it matter that the governor defined real estate as an essential service?

No. Even if you work in an area that has been defined as essential, you are still eligible for unemployment benefits as long as you meet the criteria established by the CARES Act and by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Do I need to be actively seeking work to receive benefits?

Not at this time. The Texas Workforce Commission has currently waived work search requirements for all unemployment benefit claimants and has not yet announced a date for reinstatement of such requirements.

How will unemployment benefits be calculated?

FPUC benefits are $600 per week regardless of income. PUA benefits, ranging from a minimum of $207 per week up to a maximum of $521 per week, will be calculated based on the weekly amount of compensation that the individual would have been paid for a week of total unemployment. In computing benefit amounts, the TWC will consider an individual’s wages based upon the most recent tax year and net income from all self-employment that was reported on the individual’s tax return. Submission of tax returns or 1099s may be required to receive more than the minimum weekly payment.

If I currently collect Social Security or other retirement benefits, am I still eligible for unemployment benefits?

Yes. Unemployment benefits only take into account your employment income, and additional income received through Social Security or retirement will not disqualify an applicant.