Disclaimer: I am not now nor have I ever been employed by the Employment Development Department; nor am I a lawyer or a counselor. I’m getting so many calls and e-mails, though, that I am simply digging into it and letting you know what I have found. You must, must must check the regulations in your state and look into what pertains to you specifically. Here is the link to CA EDD‘s Web site for the latest information.
I’ve been through this before, so maybe I just don’t look as if I have a coal fire burning in my tummy every day.
During my first layoff almost nine years ago, in the post-9/11 world, I was warned by a California Employment Development Department caseworker assigned to me that any attempt at freelancing would be seen as self-employment and that I would be disqualified from receiving further benefits.
It felt like death. Not write? “Oh, you can write,” the caseworker said sympathetically, “but you can’t get paid for it.”
Turns out that is not exactly the case. As long as you’re doing the odd job, which you must declare on line 6 of your continued claim form, you may write “piece work” in the “Reason No Longer Working” blank. See pages 20-21 online, pp 15-16 in the print form, under how to fill out your claim form, line 6. What the caseworker probably meant was that I could not set myself up in the freelancing business.
Even freelance jobs have been hard to land anyway, and I have not had a long-term (as in month-to-month with the same employer) project since my layoff a few months ago. EDD does address that on the same pages noted above, and they may begin to consider that kind of month-to-month gig for a single employer as “part-time” work. Part time for someone else won’t necessarily get you cut off, but the state raises an eyebrow if you look as if you’re going to make it after all, Mary Richards.
But as long as I’ve put “piece work” in the blank, I have had no phone calls, emails, cutoffs or other trouble. I dare – just dare – to say that you can’t let your vanity rule here. I’ve heard of people claiming “freelance” and “contractor” in the blank, and they are cut off immediately. I’m simply doing what the EDD instructs, though it makes me giggle to put “piece work” as if I’d actually produced a dress or some other useful thing.
The point is simple: The EDD will not support those striking out on their own. As the counselor explained to me back in 2001, there are programs for that, and she recommended SCORE. It’s a great organization; soooo not the same thing, but there you go.
It would be nice if the government recognized and supported the idea that entrepreneurship may be the next wave for most of us. But for now, just write “piece work” in the blank and get back to repairing engines, writing op-ed pieces, or picking up the odd job.