Arkansas’ self-employed workers and independent contractors who are out of work because of COVID-19 can apply for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) beginning Tuesday, May 5. The Arkansas Division of Workforce Services made the announcement May 4.


Applicants may apply online 7 days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at ARunemployment.com. Participants may also call the hotline number at 1- 844-908-2178 between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to a news release.


Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is a federal program for people who are not eligible for regular state unemployment benefits, extended benefits or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable to work due to COVID-19. This includes:


• Self-employed workers;


• Independent contractors;


• Non-profit employees;


• Gig economy workers (flexible or freelance work, often conducted online);


• Individuals who work for employers exempt from participating in the regular UI program;


• Part-Time workers without enough work history to qualify for regular UI benefits;


• Individuals impacted by COVID-19 but not eligible for regular UI benefits due to a prior disqualification.


The program provides up to 39 weeks of benefits with weekly payments ranging from $133 to $451, based on income from the previous tax year (2019). The assistance period begins with the week ending Feb. 8, 2020, and ends with the week ending Dec. 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 the week ending Feb. 8, 2020, and cannot be paid for any time subsequent to the week ending Dec. 26, 2020.


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 for the time period of the week ending April 4, 2020, through the week ending July 25, 2020.


“The PUA program will sustain thousands of hard-working, entrepreneurial Arkansans that have lost income due to the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Gov. 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.”


Mike Preston, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Commerce, also commented.


“COVID-19 slammed the brakes on our state’s thriving economy, which included a growing number of self-employed Arkansans and independent contractors,” Preston said. “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.”


Details: Visit www.arunemployment.com or call 1-844-908-2178 between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.