This information is located in our software for artists. Some references within the text will be software related.
Artists often wonder if they qualify for unemployment benefits. Unemployment insurance provides an income to workers who have been laid off or terminated without cause by an employer. Employers pay a separate tax, which the State Department of Labor uses to pay such benefits. Unemployment insurance is a universal entitlement to those who qualify—even for artists who work seasonally or part-time. However, many artists who are self-employed or work freelance may not qualify for unemployment benefits.
One of the most common exclusions for artists pertains to the Schedule C tax form. An artist who operates a business or profession as a sole proprietor, partner in a partnership, independent contractor, or consultant may need to report resulting income on a Schedule C tax form. Many artists file these forms for sales of their artwork, for commissions, and workshops, just to name a few examples. The tax deductions artists take as businesses or sole proprietors may preclude them from unemployment benefits because they are deemed “not totally unemployed”, as indicated by reported income. Unfortunately, it is possible that an artist who brings in a modest amount of additional, untaxed income on a Schedule C may be treated as if her or his entire living is made as a freelance sole proprietor.
Another serious problem artists may have with unemployment benefits is the possibility of “recoverable overpayments.” The Department of Labor may determine at any time during a recipient’s collection of benefits that she or he was not entitled to them because of other earnings. This is where things get complicated for artists. Certain types of promotion of artwork, such as a web site encouraging sales, may be perceived as possible sources of income and could lead to potential exclusions for unemployment benefits. Before artists panic, however, it should be noted that if the agency is responsible for overpayment due to a fault in its system or incorrect computing of benefits, the agency deems these “non-recoverable,” and the claimant is not liable for return of the payment. In any event, it is best to give all the information the unemployment board asks for, and give it honestly. Return of benefits may take place if the Department of Labor believes that the individual lied or withheld information in her or his unemployment insurance application. It is extremely important to do your homework before you apply so that you do not end up in this situation.
United States Department of Labor
The web site contains descriptions of unemployment benefits, as well as links to state pages.
NELA: National Employment Lawyers Association
NELA offers a referral service online or by phone.
Unemployment Action Center
The Unemployment Action Center offers legal representation services.
Workers Defense League
The Workers Defense League offers counseling on how to apply for benefits and free representation to appeal denials of benefits, in addition to providing information and referrals on other workplace issues.