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Realtors Filing for Unemployment Benefits: What We Know Right Now

In this guide specifically for Realtors, you'll find out if you qualify to receive unemployment, what's going on with Florida's system and how long it could take for you to get relief.

NOTE FROM FLORIDA REALTORS: Based on repeated conversations with both the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and senior staff within the governor’s office, it is clear that Florida faces unique challenges regarding its unemployment system and its ability to deliver federal unemployment benefits to self-employed/independent contractors. We continue to stay in daily contact with these offices and urge them to work as fast as possible. Check back frequently for updates.

The CARES Act creates a temporary “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” (PUA) program that extends unemployment benefits to those not traditionally eligible, namely self-employed individuals and independent contractors.

It relies on existing state unemployment systems to collect, verify and pay federal unemployment benefits. Like many states, Florida’s unemployment system was not built to process applications from independent contractors. Recently, the DEO updated the unemployment application process to include a question about self-employment. This allows them to accept applications from independent contracts but their ability to process the applications is still being built, meaning benefits payment to independent contractors is not yet available.

How to apply

To apply for federal unemployment compensation benefits, start here, at the state of Florida's unemployment website. Or you can apply using the DEO's new mobile-friendly website found here.

April 28, 2020 UPDATE: Through the state unemployment system, called CONNECT, you now have the ability to apply for federal benefits.  But you must first apply for state benefits and be denied in order to access it. Here is a breakdown of the process: 

If you applied for state benefits on or before April 4 you must:  

  1. Go to CONNECT and apply for state benefits again
  2. Wait for DEO to deny your state benefits.
  3. Once you get denied, check your CONNECT inbox for instructions about PUA.

If you applied for state benefits after April 4 you must:

  1. Wait for DEO to deny your state benefits.
  2. Once you get denied, check your CONNECT inbox for instructions about PUA.

In both of the above cases, you will not get access to the PUA application until DEO has processed your state benefits application and denied your state benefits. Only then will access to the PUA application appear in the CONNECT system. A flowchart outlining the process can be found here.

IMPORTANT: If you own a business or brokerage and are considering applying for an emergency business loan provided through the CARES Act, you may wish to hold off on applying for unemployment benefits since applying for unemployment may impact your ability to qualify for a federal emergency loan, and vice versa.

 

Paper vs. online applications

The paper application is not designed to be used by independent contractors seeking federal unemployment assistance. You can fill out the paper application, but it is highly likely that it will not be accepted or approved. 

How much you’ll receive

According to the DEO’s Reemployment Assistance Resource Guide - COVID-19, the CARES Act provides a $600 weekly payment, plus an additional weekly payment of a maximum of $275, depending on the claimant’s prior wages. A qualified independent contractor is eligible for up to $875 a week in federal benefits for the 18 weeks that run from March 29th - July 31st. 

Eligibility requirements for federal unemployment assistance

Federal unemployment benefits are available to self-employed and independent contractors who are fully or partially unemployed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, beginning Jan. 27, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020. Individuals who are eligible for PUA compensation are: 

  • NOT eligible for regular compensation benefits or extended benefits under state or federal law; AND 
  • Can self-certify that he or she is able to work, but who is unable to work due to COVID-19 such as movement restrictions, employment closures, medical diagnoses, and quarantines.

Additionally, if an individual is eligible to telework with pay or has paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, they are ineligible for unemployment assistance. Further, under the law, the U.S. Secretary of Labor is authorized to establish additional eligibility criteria. 

Frequently asked questions

As an independent contractor, can I apply for unemployment compensation benefits and still accept work? 

Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for full or partial unemployment compensation benefits for weeks that their work has been impacted due to COVID-19. The state will need to release guidance on how to compute these benefits.

Does showing a buyer, going on a listing appointment, escorting a home inspector constitute working?

Similar to the above question, it is logical to conclude that these types of activities constitute active working.  

If a licensee has another job, for example, works for a title company, should they apply for Unemployment Insurance under the W2 job or PUA as 1099? I imagine you cannot apply for both correct?

It is very unlikely that the individual will be able to apply for both unemployment insurance compensation through their job and for PUA because they hold a real estate license.

We do not know enough about this individual’s employment circumstances to fully respond to this question.  However, the employee likely will be deemed eligible for unemployment insurance compensation through their position with the title company, so it may be more expedient to file for traditional unemployment. 

What factors are considered when determining unemployment benefit eligibility as a result of COVID-19? 

Individual factors that are needed to show unemployment status as a result of COVID-19 include: 

  • Individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis; 
  • A member of an individual’s household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; 
  • Individuals providing care for a family member, child, or another person within one’s household diagnosed with COVID-19; 
  • Individuals who are unable to reach his or her place of employment because of self-quarantine, due to COVID-19; 
  • Individuals who were scheduled to begin work or unable to reach work due to COVID-19; 
  • Individuals who provide major household support, because the head of the household has died as a result of COVID-19; 
  • Individuals who have had to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19; 
  • Individuals whose place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or 
  • Individuals who are self-employed, or who would not otherwise qualify for regular unemployment. 

The U.S. Secretary of Labor is authorized to establish additional eligibility criteria that could potentially include other factors to prove eligibility, which is also possible by individual state programs. As more details are provided, NAR will provide updates. 

May I collect unemployment insurance benefits for a time in which I receive pay for paid sick leave and/or expanded FMLA leave? 

No. If you are eligible for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave (FMLA), you are not eligible for unemployment assistance. However, each state has its own unique set of rules; and DOL recently clarified additional flexibility to the States (UIPL 20-10) to extend partial unemployment benefits to workers whose hours or pay have been reduced. Therefore, individuals should contact their state unemployment office for specific questions about eligibility.