Nearly all workers have been affected to some degree by the coronavirus pandemic, whether you've lost your job, have been working from home, or have taken on extra responsibilities during these uncertain times.
Freelance workers and independent contractors may be particularly vulnerable to the financial effects of efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, in part because many of these workers didn't have steady incomes before the pandemic struck -- which can make it more difficult to set aside savings. A whopping 76% of independent contractors also revealed that they have lost work because clients have canceled projects due to the coronavirus, according to a recent survey from the Freelancers Union.
In addition, some of the efforts to help those facing economic hardship may not provide relief for freelancers. For example, one new regulation under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is that those experiencing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19 can take larger 401(k) loans and withdraw more from their retirement funds without facing penalties. However, many independent workers don't have access to a 401(k) through their employer, so borrowing from their retirement fund may not be an option.
That said, there are resources out there for independent contractors that can make these trying times a little easier. They include:
1. Unemployment benefits
Typically, unemployment benefits are only available to those who were laid off from their jobs. However, under the CARES Act, independent contractors can now file for unemployment benefits if they're still able to work but have lost business due to the coronavirus.
The nitty-gritty details, however, depend on where you live, because each state can have slightly different laws regarding unemployment insurance and independent contractors. That means the amount you could receive in benefits will depend on where you live and how much you're earning. To find out whether you're eligible and apply for unemployment benefits, check your state's unemployment website.
2. Stimulus checks
Roughly 90% of Americans will be receiving coronavirus stimulus checks in the coming weeks, according to research from the Tax Policy Center.
To receive the full $1,200 check, you must have an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 per year (or $112,500 per year for heads of households or $150,000 per year for married couples). If you're earning more than that, you may receive a reduced check or no check at all.
There are a few groups of people, however, who will not be eligible for checks. If you're claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return, for example, you may not qualify. This often includes college students, as well as seniors and adults with disabilities who are claimed as dependents. In addition, those who don't have a Social Security number are not eligible.
3. Disaster loan of up to $10,000
Under the CARES Act, small businesses and independent contractors are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan of up to $10,000. Unlike a standard loan, however, this money does not need to be repaid.
To be eligible for this loan, you must be an independent contractor, a business owner with fewer than 500 employees, or a private non-profit organization experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.
4. Student loan relief
Student loan borrowers can also find financial relief, with the CARES Act suspending all federal student loan payments until Sept. 30, 2020. From now until then, interest will not accrue on your loans, and skipping payments will not affect your credit score.
This type of relief is not limited to independent contractors and freelance workers, but if you're having trouble paying the bills, the money you can save by temporarily skipping your student loan payments can go a long way.
Workers across the country are seeing their lives turned upside down due to the coronavirus, and independent contractors are no exception. The good news is that there is relief out there, and by taking advantage of these resources, it will be a little easier to weather this storm.