Delaware Dept. of Labor says it could be six weeks before unemployment benefits are available

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The Delaware Department of Labor said it could take up to six weeks before independent contractors and self-employed workers impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak could apply for unemployment benefits.

The recently enacted federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides unemployment assistance to independent contractors and other self-employed individuals.

Typically, these workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits, so state officials had to create a new system to disperse the assistance. Labor officials say they are working with a vendor to design a system that will integrate the agency’s existing benefits claims operation.

“This technology will allow the Division of Unemployment Insurance (DUI) to verify earnings reported to the IRS and determine the eligibility of independent contractors and the self-employed to apply for benefits under the (CARES) Act,” the agency noted in a prepared statement.

“We anticipate that these workers will be able to apply through this new system within 3-6 weeks,” the statement said. “We will provide more details regarding implementation and how to apply on our website next week.”

Secretary of Labor Cerron Cade said his agency is “working around the clock” on the problem.

House Minority Leader Danny Short (R-Seaford) and House Minority Whip Tim Dukes (R-Laurel) took issue with the delay. In a letter sent to Sec. Cade on behalf of the House Republican Caucus, Reps. Short & Dukes said they found the three to six week time frame to be “disconcerting.”

They noted that the CARES Act was signed into law nearly three weeks ago.

“We are requesting that the DOL take immediate action to implement a short-term, stopgap plan to assist Delaware’s sole proprietors,” the pair wrote. “These small businesses — many of which are the backbone of our economy — are, quite literally, dying on the vine.”

Reps. Short & Dukes asked the DOL to provide information on how other states have already successfully implemented systems for getting benefits to unemployed independent contractors and entrepreneurs.