Self-Employed, Independent Contractors & Others

Expanded Federal Benefits for Self-Employed and Others

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program expands unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to those not covered under regular UI benefits. This includes people otherwise able and available to work but who, due to COVID-19 related reasons set forth in the CARES Act, are currently unable or unavailable to work. If your job-loss or unemployment occurred on or after March 15, 2020, you may receive payments backdated to that date.

File for PUA Benefits

PUA claims are typically processed within 7 to 10 days of being filed. You will receive a letter confirming your application and providing information on the overall process and next steps after you claim is filed.

Use the Check My Application feature to check the status of your claim and where it is in the process.


Who Is Eligible for PUA Benefits?

You may be eligible for PUA unemployment benefits if you are not covered under regular unemployment and you are otherwise able and available to work but due to specified COVID-19 related reasons, are currently unable or unavailable to work.

  • You are self-employed, an independent contractor, or not otherwise eligible for regular unemployment benefits.
  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of it and are trying to get diagnosed.
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are providing care for someone in your household diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are providing care for a child or other household member who can't go to school or a care facility because it's closed due to COVID-19.
  • You are quarantined or have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine.
  • You were scheduled to start a job and no longer have the job due to COVID-19, the offer was rescinded, or you can’t reach the job.
  • You have become the primary earner for a household because the head of household died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You had a previous unemployment overpayment or something similar.
  • You meet other criteria set forth by the Secretary of Labor.

What to do Before Filing a PUA Claim:

File your PUA claim at DLI’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance page. PUA benefits were created for those who are ineligible for regular UI benefits. A denial for regular UI benefits does not affect your eligibility for PUA benefits. If you may be eligible for PUA benefits, DLI will notify you based on the communication preference you establish in your PUA claim, either email or by mail.

If you earned more than $2,900 in 2019 or 2020, then you will need to wait for a determination regarding your eligibility for regular UI benefits. Call the Claims Center at 406-444-2545 for information on your next steps.

Last updated 04/21/20

Federal guidelines for PUA define "self-employed individuals" as those whose primary reliance for income is on the performance of services in their own business or on their farm or ranch. "Self-employed individuals” also includes independent contractors, gig workers, and workers for certain religious entities.

DLI determines whether you are an "employee" or an "independent contractor" only for PUA purposes. DLI is not determining at this time whether you performed the work as an employee or independent contractor for state law purposes. For more information on working as an independent contractor in Montana, visit here.
Last updated 05/13/20

Possibly. If you earned less than $2,900 in 2019 from your part-time job, you should file for PUA. You will need to file a claim for regular UI benefits if you earned more than $2,900 in 2019 from your part-time job. You can file your claim for regular UI benefits at MontanaWorks.
Revised 05/14/20

If you have enough wages from part-time employment, you will be required to establish a claim for regular UI benefits. Once you exhaust that claim, you may be eligible for up to 13 additional weeks of PEUC benefits. You will be prompted to apply for PEUC benefits in the dashboard if you are able to file for PEUC benefits.
Last updated 05/13/20

DLI is not currently requesting documentation of your employment status. DLI is also not determining whether you performed the work as an employee or independent contractor for state law purposes. Be prepared to submit proof of employment or self-employment if asked to do so. Such proof includes, but is not limited to:

  • Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate (ICEC)
  • copies of recent paycheck stubs;
  • bank receipts showing deposits;
  • 1099s;
  • billing notices provided to your customers;
  • recent advertisements for your business or services;
  • statements from recent customers;
  • current business licenses
  • ledgers, contracts, invoices, and/or building leases.

Last updated 05/14/20

DLI is not currently requesting proof of previous income. Be prepared to submit such proof if asked to do so. Acceptable documentation of wages can include but is not limited to:

  • 2019 tax returns;
  • paycheck stubs;
  • bank receipts;
  • ledgers;
  • contracts;
  • invoices; and/or
  • billing statements.

Last updated 05/14/20

DLI is not currently requiring you to submit proof beyond your self-certification that you are unemployed or working reduced hours for COVID-19 related reasons. Individuals must self-certify that they are unable to work due to the list of COVID-19 impacts listed in the PUA description.

Be prepared to submit proof you meet eligibility requirements for PUA benefits if requested. Acceptable documentation to substantiate COVID-19 reason(s) for inability to work can include but is not limited to:

  • Documentation from medical professionals regarding diagnosis or isolation instructions for you or a person in your home;
  • Notices or emails from school or childcare providers;
  • Notices or emails from a county or state government regarding the closure of businesses or stay at home orders;
  • Notices or emails from entities for which you were contracting stating that your services are not needed due to COVID-19 related shutdowns; and/or
  • Documentation from a prospective employer that includes start date, hours, and pay of a job offer that was canceled or delayed.

Last updated 05/13/20

You may use your 2018 tax return information, or you may report 0. Be prepared to submit proof that you worked in 2019 when asked to do so.
Last updated 05/14/20

You should provide all tax information from your 2019 tax return.
Last updated 05/14/20

Enter 0 for income. This does not disqualify you from PUA.
Last updated 05/14/20

Filing a PUA Claim

No. The system requires you to complete the process in full for your claim to be successfully submitted.
Last updated 05/14/20

An email address is required. You will need to establish an email address before filing your PUA claim.
Last updated 05/14/20

We do not currently have a mechanism to fix incorrect income information. You will need to provide your tax information to prove the correct amount.
Last updated 05/14/20

Unless you became the Head of Household because of a death related to COVID-19, you will be required to submit a copy of a recent tax return. Be prepared to submit proof of self-employment when asked to do so.
Last updated 05/14/20

Yes, you will need to file a regular UI claim.
Last updated 05/14/20

They will need to separate their income and report each separately.
Last updated 05/14/20

It is important that you ensure you correctly enter your banking information when you file your claim. It will take time to resolve the issue if the benefits have been deposited in the wrong bank account. Contact your bank for information on what you can do as an account holder. Continue checking your online portal for updates.
Last updated 05/14/20

Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) Questions:

If you can establish a PUA claim as a self-employed worker due to not having enough wages to establish a claim for regular benefits, then your PUA benefit will be based solely on your self-employment wages. If you earned more than $2,900 in 2019 or 2020, as reported on a W2, then you will need to wait for a determination regarding your eligibility for regular UI benefits. Call the Claims Center at 406-444-2545 for information on your next steps. Your WBA will not be based upon wages from both self-employment and covered employment.
Revised 05/14/20

The minimum WBA for PUA benefits is $184, which has been established by calculating 50% of Montana’s average WBA.
Last updated 05/13/20

It depends on the facts of your situation. PUA benefits are currently in place for a total of 39 weeks. If you have received regular UI benefits, the number of weeks you received those benefits before establishing a PUA claim will reduce the total number of weeks of PUA benefits you will receive. Receipt of benefits under other programs will also be subtracted on a week by week basis from maximum PUA eligibility.
Last updated 05/14/20

The amount of PUA benefits you will receive is based on your previous income reported. The minimum WBA for PUA benefits is $184, which has been established by calculating 50% of Montana’s average WBA. Additionally, PUA recipients qualify for an additional $600 in weekly benefits from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program for the UI weeks ending April 4 through July 25, 2020.
Last updated 05/14/20

After Filing Your PUA Claim

Yes. You must report all hours worked and your net income for that week when filing your weekly payment request. If you worked full-time and did not receive any income, you need to report that.

Failure to accurately report hours worked or wages earned may result in an overpayment of PUA benefits that you will be required to repay.


Last updated 05/14/20

Yes. You must report the hours you worked and the wages you expect to receive for that work when requesting benefits. You are responsible for tracking the work you perform as a self-employed worker or independent contractor, so your payment requests are accurate. Failure to accurately report hours worked and wages earned in your payment requests can result in an overpayment of PUA benefits that you will be required to repay.
Last updated 05/14/20

Eligibility for PUA benefits is based upon you working reduced hours or being unemployed for a COVID-19 related reason. When you file your weekly payment request, you will be asked, “Are you filing or reactivating your claim because of a direct or indirect impact from COVID-19?” If you answer, “Yes,” you will be asked to select a reason you are not working.
Last updated 05/14/20

If you are paid by commission (e.g., a realtor), you must report your net income the week in which you earned the commission. If you bill for your services (e.g., counselor, massage therapist, contractors), report the net income of your billing for that week when filing your weekly payment request.
Last updated 05/13/20

Please ask your accountant or bookkeeper for assistance on how to allocate expenses. We do not provide guidance on how to calculate your net income amounts.
Last updated 05/14/20

No. If you can telework and be paid your customary wage prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, then you are not eligible for PUA.
Last updated 05/14/20

It depends. If you are receiving a partial payment for sick leave, you may be eligible for a reduced Weekly Benefit Amount. You must report your paid leave as income or wages when filing your weekly payment request. If your paid leave is greater than your Weekly Benefit Amount, you will not be eligible for benefits.
Last updated 05/14/20

If you are working fewer hours due to COVID-19 and it has resulted in a loss in income, and you are not eligible for regular UI benefits, you may be eligible for PUA.
Last updated 05/14/20

If you are receiving PUA and become eligible for a new regular unemployment insurance claim, you will no longer be eligible for PUA.
Last updated 05/14/20

First, look at your account to determine what payments have been made. Click on the Benefit Payments Tab and review what payments show failed to deposit. If there is nothing in the benefit payments tab for that benefit week and an active claim is indicated, there may be issues as to whether your payment request should be processed as a claim for regular UI benefits or benefits under another federal program. We appreciate your patience as we continue to process your claim.
Last updated 05/14/20

There may be technical issues as the PUA program is implemented. DLI is adding additional resources to ensure that claims are timely processed. Please contact the PUA claims center at 406-444-3382 for assistance.
Last updated 05/14/20

DLI is required by state and federal law to regularly review your eligibility for PUA benefits. DLI receives quarterly wage reports from the employers in the base period of your claim. You are not eligible for PUA benefits if you have enough wages to establish a claim for regular UI benefits. If you dispute the wage information in your Monetary Determination, please follow the directions on the form for requesting a redetermination. Be prepared to submit your pay stubs if asked to do so by a customer service representative.

Canceling your claim for regular UI benefits will not make you eligible for PUA benefits.
Last updated 05/26/20

Email UIClaims@mt.gov with WITHDRAW in the subject line. Include in your email your name, individual Claimant ID number, telephone number, issue ID number, and a brief description the issue and why you want to withdraw you request. A customer service representative will contact you if further information is needed.

If you have gone through the redetermination process and you have filed an appeal, email DLIHearings@mt.gov with WITHDRAW in the subject line. Include your name, individual Claimant ID number, telephone number, issue ID number, and a brief description of the issue and why you want to withdraw your appeal. A representative with the Office of Administrative Hearings will contact you if further information is need.
Last updated 05/26/20

General Eligibility Questions:

You will not be eligible for PUA benefits at the conclusion of the school year. You must notify UI as to when your child’s school year was scheduled to end.
Last updated 05/14/20

If you are not eligible for other UI benefits, you may be eligible for PUA benefits. All eligible claimants who have exhausted regular UI benefits must file a Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) extension claim. On MontanaWorks, select the Access Unemployment Claim Services button on the dashboard. If your benefit year has ended, you will need to file a new claim for UI benefits on MontanaWorks.
Last updated 05/14/20

You must first file for regular UI benefits. The PUA program expands UI benefits to those not covered under regular unemployment. Once those regular UI benefits are exhausted, you may be eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). If you are not eligible for other UI benefits, you may then be eligible PUA benefits.
Last updated 05/14/20

Yes. You are eligible for PUA benefits while your TRA program is suspended. Notify UI when your TRA program resumes. Information on the TRA program can be found here.
Last updated 05/14/20

DLI requests wage information when an application shows wages from other states or from federal or military employment. All state unemployment programs are working to process thousands of new and reactivated claims. As a result, there have been delays in DLI receiving wage information requested from other states and federal and military agencies to determine if you are eligible to establish a claim for regular UI benefits. We appreciate your continued patience as we work to process your claim. Please check the dashboard regularly for information regarding the status of your claim.
Last updated 05/14/20

Each claim is unique. The time it takes to process a claim depends on many factors. We appreciate your continued patience as we continue to process thousands of new and reactivated claims in accordance with state and federal law. Continue checking the dashboard and MontanaWorks.gov for updates.
Revised 05/26/20

No, UI benefits are not a substitute for future lost wages or income. If you are working 40 hours or more each week or earn twice your weekly benefit amount from your primary job and/or secondary jobs, you will not be eligible for regular UI benefits. Failure to accurately report hours worked or wages earned when filing your weekly payment request may result in an overpayment of PUA benefits that you will be required to repay.
Last updated 05/14/20

UI is required to ensure benefits are paid only when due. It relies upon you to provide accurate information as to hours worked or wages earned when you file your request for payment. You are also required to report if you return to work or something else has happened that affects your availability to work.

If you fail to provide accurate information when filing your request for payment, a claim audit may be performed in which UI will determine whether you were overpaid benefits for weeks in which you requested payment. You will be required to repay any PUA benefits you were not eligible to receive. Future UI benefit amounts may be subject to a 50% offset for any overpayments.

See page 17 of the Claimant Handbook for further information.
Last updated 05/14/20

Providing false or misleading information to obtain benefits is fraud. The Montana Department of Labor & Industry takes fraud very seriously; all reports of potential, alleged, or suspected fraud are thoroughly reviewed and investigated. Those found to have committed fraud are subject to penalties and/or criminal prosecution. Please refer to page 16 of the Claimant Handbook for more information.
Last updated 05/14/20

You are considered able and available to work if you can answer, “Yes,” to the question: “If it were not for COVID-19, would you be able and available?”
Last updated 05/14/20

Generally, no. UI and PUA benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. You are probably not eligible for benefits if you choose not to work without trying to find a solution with your employer. However, if you attempted to work out an accommodation with your employer and you meet one of the qualifying reasons set forth in Who Is Eligible for PUA Benefits, you may still be eligible.
Last updated 05/14/20

Claims should generally be filed in the state where you performed the work. If you have questions about where to file your claim, contact the state unemployment insurance agency where you now live for more information.
Last updated 05/14/20

If you are maintaining your operation but at a reduced level or capacity (i.e. in a way that you would consider yourself partially employed when compared to normal operations), then you should apply for PUA.
Last updated 05/14/20

If you have PUA related questions, call the PUA claims center at 406-444-3382 or email PUAClaims@mt.gov.

If you have a question about your claim for regular UI benefits, call the Claims Center at 406-444-2545 or email UIClaims@mt.gov.

Include your name, individual Claimant ID, telephone number, and a brief description of your issue. A customer service representative will contact you if further information is required.
Last updated 05/14/20

You may be eligible to receive PUA benefits if you have an administrative penalty. Call 406-444-2545 to speak with Claims Processing. You will not be able to proceed to PUA until Claims Processing has reviewed your claim.
Last updated 05/26/20

If you receive wages for weeks you have already received UI benefits, you need to report those wages when they are received. Please call the Claims Processing Center at (406) 444-2545. You can also fax your wage information to (406) 444-2699, or email UIClaims@mt.gov .

If you wish to return benefit check(s) or repay benefits, you can mail the check(s), or a money order or personal check made out to DLI Overpayments Unit to:

Unemployment Insurance Division
Overpayments Unit
PO Box 8020
Helena, MT 59604-8020

Be sure to include a statement that lists your name, individual Claimant ID, telephone number and what benefit weeks you’re wishing to repay. Remember UI benefit weeks begin Sunday and end Saturday. A customer service representative will contact you if further information is required.
Last updated 05/26/20

Last updated 05/26/20

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