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Business Buzz: Self-employed can file for unemployment assistance

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Small business PPP

Robin Dent is worried about sole proprietors' inability to receive money from the Paycheck Protect Program to stay afloat. Dent owns Sound Healing, a therapy business on Higgins Avenue, and works as the only employee. This week, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry announced that independent contractors, the self-employed and gig workers can file for pandemic-related unemployment insurance benefits.

Here's some business news for the Missoula area:

Montana Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Brenda Nordlund this week announced Montana's self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and others not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits can begin filing claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits. The new relief falls under the recently passed CARES Act.

“Our new web portal is now live and ready to process claims for self-employed Montanans. Our state boasts a high rate of entrepreneurialism, which means these benefits will help a wide swath of Montanans,” Nordlund said. “We’re focused on getting unemployment assistance in the hands of those that need it as quickly as possible and this new technology is a big step in helping Montanans during this time of uncertainty.”

Those who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and others affected by the coronavirus are now able to file online at mtpua.mt.gov.

DLI expects to start issuing payments under this program to approved claimants within the next 10 days. Eligible claimants may receive payments backdated to the week of March 15, consistent with the onset of local and state social distancing directives, school closures and Gov. Steve Bullock’s “Stay at Home” directive.

In conjunction with the web portal roll-out, a new phone line is available for individuals without internet access to file their PUA claim, or for those with claim-specific questions at 406- 444-3382. A new email address is also available to those with questions at PUAclaims@mt.gov. A resource guide with answers to frequently asked questions, details on the new filing process and other resources is available at dli.mt.gov/self-employed-contractors.

Programs included in the CARES Act legislation:

• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation — Provides an additional $600 per week to any individual eligible for any of the unemployment compensation programs. This benefit is retroactive for those who had a claim beginning the UI filing week of March 29 through April 4, 2020.

• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation — Allows for an additional 13 weeks of benefits added to the end of regular unemployment benefits. This means claimants may collect unemployment benefits for a longer period of time than under normal circumstances.

• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — Provides unemployment benefits to those not ordinarily eligible for them, including the self-employed.

Under the CARES Act legislation, those eligible for PUA benefits are also eligible for the additional $600 per week stimulus payment. The payment is added to the recipient’s state weekly benefit amount. The payments will be made for eligible weeks beginning the UI week ending April 4 through July 25, 2020.

With unanimous support from the Board of Directors, the Missoula Downtown Foundation has established a Downtown Missoula Business Support Fund and will use its annual spring campaign to raise funds that can support businesses and organizations negatively affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

As the fundraising arm of the Downtown Missoula Partnership, the Missoula Downtown Foundation has the mission to support and promote the spirit and heritage of Missoula through cultural, historical and economic enhancement of Downtown Missoula, now and for future generations. In an effort to help rebuild the economy and vibrancy of Downtown, the MDF will seek support from individuals, grantors, businesses not impacted by the crisis, partner organizations, and government agencies to raise and distribute a minimum of $100,000 in 2020.

The Foundation will roll out an online fundraising campaign in conjunction with the Missoula Gives (https://www.missoulagives.org/) annual fundraising campaign next week: April 30-May 1, 2020. With the original intent of raising funds for Downtown holiday décor and wayfinding, the foundation’s spring campaign will instead provide the opportunity for any and all individuals or entities to support downtown businesses and organizations through the Missoula Downtown Business Support Fund.

“A vibrant and healthy city is built upon the tenacity and dedication of business owners who give their time, talent and treasure to many different projects and programs that make Missoula such a special space,” said Jared Kuehn, president of the MDF Board of Directors and commercial lender at First Security Bank. “The COVID pandemic has had a significant impact on the health of the downtown business community, and the foundation believes this is the time for us to do all we can to support those businesses that could use a lift.”

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