Unemployment May Be An Option for REALTORS

As reported on April 20th, Governor Baker launched its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance portal, which allows independent contractors such as Realtors® to apply for unemployment benefits. Click here to begin your application and for additional information: www.mass.gov/pua. Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, or gig workers who have had to suspend their work because of COVID-19, or had a significant reduction in work, may be eligible for PUA. In cases where an individual has partial earnings, these earnings must be reported, and their weekly benefit amount may be reduced.

Multi-State Question:  From the webinar, there were some questions about where and how to file when you live and work in different states.  Please note you should file in Massachusetts if that is where you received income, even if you don’t live here. Theresa Hatton also noted that each state determines eligibility when they launch, so check if you earn in more than one state.  This information is for those filing in MA only (though NY has similar criteria to MA, but CT and NH do not).

We have heard from Berkshire REALTORS who have already been approved for unemployment assistance pending income verification, and some that have had trouble filing.  As such, here are two help items to assist those who are going through the process.  (we also share some intel they learned below)

From Berkshire REALTORS who went through the process, here is some feedback:

  • The application process was user-friendly.
  • Telephone assistance with a live operator was available (took some time), though getting a hold of a supervisor for more complex questions was difficult (disconnected).
  • After approval, the Pandemic Unemployment Insurance can be retroactive to the beginning of March
  • You have to file for unemployment and verify activity for each individual week back to your claim date. 
  • When you verify the week of unemployment, it asks if you worked and if you received any earnings. If you were paid commission check(s) during that week, you must note the amount.
  • Your earnings are to be reported when payment is received, not when put under contract. 

Pending question:  When asked to verify a week, it asks if you “worked.” We are unsure if showings should be reported as work given there were no earnings associated. Perhaps it is a way to confirm you were looking for work (another question asks how you’re looking for work.) We will let you know as soon as we do!

Please note that Theresa Hatton, MAR CEO, reported at our member meeting this week that there are varying levels of income documentation requested for different individuals.  This is because some income information is available from integrated systems by the state offices, and they can confirm some information electronically.  When electronic or automatic confirmation is not available, you will be asked to provide documentation. (see below)

MAR reports that “In order to qualify for benefits you must certify that you are otherwise able and available to work, but are prevented from doing so because you have been directly effected by COVID-19 or you are an individual who works as an independent contractor and the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your usual work activities, and you have thereby been forced to stop performing those activities.

The amount of benefits you will receive is based on your previous income. PUA benefits may not be more than the state’s maximum weekly benefit rate for regular unemployment benefits, which is $823.00 in Massachusetts. All individuals collecting PUA will also receive $600 per week from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), in addition to weekly benefits as calculated by the program.”

Applicants will need to provide the following information:

  • Your social security number
  • If you are not a citizen of the United States, your A Number (USCIS Number)
  • Your residential address
  • Your mailing address (if different from residential address)
  • Your telephone number
  • Your email address
  • Your birth date
  • Your wage records for 2019, which includes:
    • 1099 forms
    • Pay stubs
    • Bank statements
  • The social security number(s) and date(s) of birth for your dependent child(ren)
  • If you want to use direct deposit for payment, your bank account and routing numbers

For more information, you can go directly to the Mass.gov site: www.mass.gov/pua. I am sorry to say your local Board Office Staff is not able to assist you.  You can also call the MAR legal department if you have specific questions and they might be able to help, but minimally.  800-370-5342