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Can 1099 Employees File for Unemployment?

HR & Compliance

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Updated on:
February 20, 2024
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Updated on :

February 20, 2024
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Can 1099 Employees File for Unemployment?

Many people immediately think of unemployment benefits as a financial safety net when economic hardship or unforeseen circumstances strike. But what if you're a 1099 employee—can you also reap the benefits of unemployment insurance? In this comprehensive guide, we'll unravel the complexities around this subject and provide you with the answers you need.

What is a 1099 Employee?

Before diving into the question, let's clarify what it means to be a 1099 employee. The term "1099 employee" is somewhat of a misnomer because individuals who receive 1099 forms from their employers are technically not employees but independent contractors. These workers are self-employed, providing goods or services under terms defined by a contract with another entity.

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Traditional Unemployment Benefits

Typically, unemployment benefits are reserved for W-2 employees who have been laid off, terminated, or subjected to reduced working hours through no fault of their own. These benefits are funded by payroll taxes that both employers and W-2 employees pay. Employers pay state and federal unemployment taxes to facilitate these benefits.

The 1099 Employee Dilemma

Independent contractors, or 1099 workers, usually don't pay into the unemployment insurance system, which traditionally meant they were not eligible for unemployment benefits. However, exceptional circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic have led to temporary changes in these rules, such as the pandemic emergency unemployment compensation.

Pandemic Assistance: A Recent Exception

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the federal government temporarily extended unemployment benefits to 1099 workers and other self-employed individuals. This was part of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which has since expired but could serve as a precedent for future relief efforts just like the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation served.

State-Specific Guidelines

It's worth noting that unemployment benefits are also subject to state laws, which can vary significantly. Some states may have specific provisions or emergency legislation that could potentially extend benefits to 1099 employees or self-employed workers under certain conditions. Also, always check with your state unemployment office for the current information.

What Can You Do As a 1099 Worker?

If you're a 1099 employee (self-employed workers) facing financial hardship, consider the following steps:

Check State Legislation: See if your state has specific guidelines or emergency provisions for independent contractors.

Apply for Assistance: Programs other than regular unemployment benefits might be available to you. Look into short-term disability, food stamps, or emergency grants as alternatives.

Consult a Financial Advisor: Understand your options for withdrawal from retirement accounts or other financial moves that can be beneficial during times of need. Also, check how your taxable income may be affected.

Monitor Government Updates: In extraordinary circumstances, the government may extend benefits. Keep an eye on news and announcements. Also, your state unemployment office might release guidelines.

Who Typically Qualifies for Unemployment Insurance Benefits?

In times of economic uncertainty or personal job loss, unemployment insurance can be a financial lifesaver. But who actually qualifies for these benefits? To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must understand the eligibility criteria. It is crucial when you find yourself in need of this financial safety net. This section will walk you through the specifics of who typically qualifies for unemployment insurance benefits.

What is Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment insurance is a social welfare program designed to provide temporary financial assistance to workers who lose their jobs due to no fault of their own. This program is generally funded by employer-paid taxes and is intended to help unemployed workers while they collect unemployment and search for new employment. To file for unemployment, you usually need to contact your local agency.

The guidelines for unemployment compensation may differ across states, but several core principles are generally applicable:

Sufficient Employment History: To qualify, most states require a minimum amount of work during a 'base period,' usually the past 12-18 months.

Involuntary Unemployment: Losing your job should typically be due to external factors like layoffs, company closures, or downsizing rather than voluntary resignation or termination for misconduct.

Active Job Seeking: To continue receiving benefits, you're often required to prove that you're actively searching for new employment.

Availability for Work: You should be physically and mentally capable of working and ready to accept a suitable job offer when it comes along.

Special Cases and Exceptions: Certain categories of workers may face unique eligibility rules:

Self-Employed Individuals: Typically, self-employed people are not eligible, although there can be exceptions during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freelancers and Gig Workers: Usually not eligible but might receive unemployment benefits under special provisions.

Part-time Workers: Some states offer benefits to part-time workers if they meet other criteria.

Military Personnel and Federal Workers: Separate unemployment claims or programs exist for these categories.

Common Disqualifications

Understanding what disqualifies you is just as crucial. Here are typical disqualifications:

Voluntary Resignation: Leaving a job by choice usually disqualifies you.

Termination for Misconduct: If you're fired for reasons such as theft or harassment, you're generally ineligible.

Freelance or Contract Work: These roles, often under independent contractor status, generally do not qualify for unemployment benefits unless under special circumstances.

Failure to Search for a Job: If you're not actively looking for work, you may be disqualified.

Unemployment insurance is largely regulated at the state level. Always check the guidelines specific to your state to understand your eligibility fully.

Reporting Form 1099 Income to Your Unemployment Office

Failing to report 1099 income while receiving unemployment benefits could result in overpayments, penalties, or even legal repercussions. Accurate reporting ensures that you receive the correct benefits and maintain compliance with the law.

Steps to Report Form 1099 Income

Gather Your Documents

Compile all your Form 1099s, detailing your additional income streams. This will give you a comprehensive view of your earnings.

Check State Guidelines

Unemployment insurance is managed at the state level, and each state has its own rules for reporting additional income. Consult your state's unemployment office website or speak to a representative for specific instructions.

Use the Correct Reporting Channels

Many states offer online portals where you can update your income information. Some also provide options for phone or mail reporting.

Be Timely

Report your 1099 income as soon as you receive it to ensure your unemployment benefits are adjusted accordingly. Failing to do so in a timely manner could result in penalties.

Keep Records

Always keep a copy of your submitted reports and any correspondence with the unemployment office for your records.

Your additional 1099 income may affect the amount of unemployment benefits you're eligible for. Depending on your state's regulations, your benefits may be reduced or even halted if your additional income exceeds a certain limit.

File Taxes Compliantly With Skuad

Understanding whether 1099 employees can file for unemployment is a complex issue that depends on various factors, including federal and state laws and special circumstances like pandemic relief measures. While traditionally, 1099 workers have not been eligible for unemployment benefits, exceptional cases like the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that rules can change. Awareness of these dynamics is crucial for employers and contractors to navigate the financial challenges effectively.

For businesses employing 1099 workers, compliance with various tax regulations becomes an added complexity. This is where a service like Skuad can be invaluable. Skuad’s Employer of Record platform enables organizations to hire and onboard contractors and employees in over 160 countries while ensuring full compliance with country-specific laws and regulations.

With Skuad, you can ensure that your organization is fully compliant, mitigating legal risks and avoiding fines. To know more about how Skuad can help your organization stay ahead of compliance issues, talk to Skuad experts today.


What disqualifies you from unemployment in California?

In California, you may be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for several reasons, including voluntarily quitting your job without a good cause, being fired for misconduct, or refusing suitable work. Additionally, if you're not actively seeking employment, you may also be disqualified.

Does 1099 income get reported to EDD?

Yes, if you're receiving unemployment benefits in California, you are required to report any additional income, including 1099 income, to the Employment Development Department (EDD). Failing to do so may result in overpayments or legal repercussions, as it can affect your eligibility and benefit amount.

About the author

Catalina Wang is a Human Resource Consultant. She manages recruitment, onboarding, and contract administration staffing for many organizations and remote teams. She’s passionate about efficient HR management and the impact of tech on hiring practices.

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