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EXCLUSIVE: Self-employed workers, freelancers fight for access to unemployment benefits (video)

People who are self employed and freelancers, among others, are pushing for a chance to collect unemployment if they lose work.

Several organizations came together last week to bring attention to the Governor and leaders in Albany. They’re asking “to include $500 million in the state budget for the Unemployment Bridge Program, that would run in parallel to the state’s unemployment insurance program and provide workers with $1,200 monthly if they lose work, on par with the average UI rate offered to other workers.”

One of the organizations joining the conversation is the Tompkins County Worker’s Center. It’s a non profit that focuses on labor organization and worker’s rights. 

“Usually that surrounds difficult situations, whether that’s not receiving their wages, or not getting paid overtime,” said Gabriella Carr, Associate Director. “Yesterday I spoke with someone whose employer has not yet raised their wage to the new minimum wage which was effective Dec. 31, 2022.”

So who, specifically, could benefit?

Carr said there are thousands of workers who don’t qualify for unemployment insurance. But they might quality under the Unemployment Bridge Program.

“Only folks who are exclusively barred from traditional UI would be considered,” she added. “And they have to be in certain fields. That includes being a cash worker in a domestic workplace, or a day laborer such as a construction worker, or a farm worker in a small business. As well as self-employed entrepreneurs and freelancers, who make less than $56,000 a year. This applies to undocumented immigrant workers.” 

Carr and her team have been lobbying and having one-on-one meetings with senators and assembly members. The hope is to get them to sign on.

“We’re doing some final pushes like calls-to-action in Albany,” she said. “We’ve asked people to call their representative. We need to see this legislation passed both in the assembly.”

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