West Virginians who are self-employed or independent contractors will soon be able to apply for unemployment benefits if they’ve been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
During a virtual press conference Monday hosted by state officials, Scott Adkins, director of WorkForce West Virignia, said beginning on Friday at 10 p.m. workers who would not otherwise be eligible for benefits, including gig workers, freelancers and Uber and Lyft drivers, will also be able to apply for benefits under the CARES Act passed last month by Congress.
"So, for you folks who are self-employed, independent contractors, you're going to have the opportunity to apply for benefits starting this Friday night," Adkins said.
Self-employed and independent contract workers will also be eligible for the additional $600 per week in federal benefits beginning the week of March 29 and are eligible for back pay beginning from January 27.
Since March 16, more than 140,000 West Virginians have applied for unemployment, according to Adkins.
The unprecedented need has put a huge strain on the agency and the state has ramped up staffing and resources to help process claims, including deploying some members of the National Guard. Some applicants have reported weeks-long delays in getting approved.
Adkins said the claims backlog should be fully cleared by Wednesday evening.
"It's a huge undertaking for us," he said.