Self-employed wait for state’s online unemployment application

Investigates

Many self employed or gig workers are wondering how much longer they can hold on during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

The bills are piling up and they’re still not certain when, or even if, they will get unemployment checks.

Originally South Dakota Department of Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman agreed to do an interview for this story. But then she said she wasn’t available and no one from the department would be doing an interview. However, we did get a news release saying that the Department is finalizing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance online application, with a target launch date of next Monday. Self-employed workers are waiting anxiously for that to happen.

It’s lights out at the downtown Sioux Falls hair salon Absolute Bliss.

“Business has just bottomed out. It’s horrible. The bottom just dropped out a good 2-3 weeks ago,” Bierwagen said.

Darla Bierwagen’s salon Absolute Bliss sits empty during pandemic

Sole proprietor Darla Bierwagen applied for unemployment right away.

“At first I was told I didn’t qualify, and now I did call Friday, and they said, ‘yeah you would qualify, but we don’t have the rules and regs as far as who to pay, what to pay, how much to pay, as of yet,'” Bierwagon said.

The Department of Labor says it plans to issue payments to those who are eligible as soon as it can.

“The Department of Labor is horribly overwhelmed right now. I get that, but we have to survive too. We have families. I have kids. I’m a single mom and I have nobody to help me; for me, it’s pretty dire,” Bierwagon said.

“It’s a big hardship with my family because this is my source of income to pay bills and rent for my office, Cindy Kauffman said.

Massage therapist Cindy Kauffman is in the same boat as Bierwagen.

Massage Therapist Cindy Kauffman says most of her clients are elderly or at high risk, so they aren’t booking appointments.

“How am I going to pay for just daily life stuff? So it’s pretty stressful, but I just keep my head up and keep thinking positive that something will come through. I know a lot of us are keeping in touch with each other so we can say, hey did you do this? Or did you do that?” Kauffman said.

Both women say it’s hard to not feel desperate while waiting for the state to finalize the process for unemployment benefits for independent contractors or the self-employed.

“I definitely have many sleepless nights,” Bierwagen said.

Unemployment benefits can go back as far as February and last for 39 weeks. The State has supplied us with some COVID-19 pandemic scenarios and the benefits available.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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