Options for Independent Contractors

The AOA understands the importance of independent contractors to the practice of optometry. Included below is specific guidance for doctors of optometry who are independent contractors and are working to navigating these very challenging times.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

Program overview

The PPP plan set aside $350 billion for a new program to quickly get financial resources out to optometry practices and other small businesses, then forgives that loan later if used for a legitimate business expense during the covered 8-week period.

Eligibility

The Small Business Administration (SBA) specifically notes, "independent contractors have the ability to apply for a PPP loan on their own."

Application overview

View and download Paycheck Protection Program Borrower Application Form. Your lender will require additional paperwork to demonstrate your payroll costs.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL)

Program overview

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, independent contractors can apply for an EIDL. Some funding can be accessed quickly in under a week as an advance on a loan.

Eligibility

Independents are eligible for EIDL.

Application overview

View and download Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance application.

Unemployment Insurance

Program overview

As part of the federal CARES Act—and as a as a direct result of COVID-19—the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program helps unemployed individuals who are business owners, self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, have limited work history and others not historically eligible for regular state Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.

The program includes:

  • Up to 39 weeks of benefits, starting with your weeks of unemployment beginning on Jan. 27, 2020, through the week ending Dec. 31, 2020.
  • An additional $600 to each PUA weekly amount you may be eligible to receive, as part of the separate CARES Act Pandemic Additional Compensation program. Only the weeks of a claim between March 29 and July 31 are eligible for the extra $600 payments.

Because this is a new program, each state will need time to develop the necessary system programming, forms, processes and procedures.

Eligibility

The PUA benefits are payable if you don't qualify for regular UI benefits in your state, and you also do not qualify for State Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave benefits.

This group includes:

  • Business owners.
  • Self-employed individuals.
  • Independent contractors.
  • Individuals who may have qualified for regular UI benefits but have collected all benefits for which they are eligible.

If you are not a citizen of the United States, you cannot be paid PUA benefits unless you were legally permitted to work in the United States at the time such services were performed. In addition, you must be authorized to work for any week of PUA benefits claimed to be eligible for payments.

You must also meet one of the following criteria:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • You are unable to work because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • A child or other person in the household for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of COVID-19 and the school or facility care is required for you to work.
  • You became the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You must quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You were scheduled to start a job that is now unavailable as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You are unable to reach the place of employment as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

If you work as an independent contractor with reportable income, you may also qualify for PUA benefits if you are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities, and has thereby forced you to stop working.

Application process

The application process for PUA benefits is similar to or the same as (state-by-state dependent) filing for traditional UI benefits. Find your state-by-state listings for UI benefits.

Due to the implementation period and timing of the PUA program (state guidance was issued by the U.S. Department of Labor on April 5), availability may not be applicable in your state yet, but you are encouraged to check back frequently for updates to the application process.

Questions? Email AOA staff Daniel CareyKara Webb, or Mike Stokes.

Additional considerations

  • Some Americans are receiving direct stimulus checks from the government. Check the status of your stimulus at irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.
  • Individuals who receive PPP funding may be ineligible for unemployment benefits during the time period when PPP funds are used for payroll.
  • There do not appear to be preclusions for receiving unemployment benefits and an EIDL loan. We recommend you confirm with your EIDL loan officer.
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