KALISPELL — Those who are self employed during the coronavirus pandemic face a particular set of struggles applying for unemployment.
MTN News spoke with Jessica How, a Whitefish massage therapist who says things changed overnight for her business when coronavirus hit.
"It's been very financially challenging I would say as far as just uncertainty about the future and not knowing how far you have to plan in the future and not knowing how far you have to make your resources stretch," said How.
Since How is an independent contractor, she told MTN News that coronavirus closed both locations she worked at in March. After both locations closed, she immediately filed for unemployment.
"It took about a month to two months in order to receive a rejection letter from the unemployment office, said How. "I immediately applied for the pandemic unemployment insurance as soon as I was notified that I may be eligible for that."
Laura Gardner, manager of Job Service Kalispell says there are a variety of reasons why someone would not qualify for unemployment. She suggests self employed people like How apply for pandemic unemployment insurance.
"Pandemic unemployment for those people that aren't typically eligible for unemployment insurance," said Gardner. "So, that would be the self employed folks, people that haven't paid into unemployment for themselves."
She also told MTN News that for those struggling to get approval there are lots of moving pieces.
"Sometimes it's stuck in between some have regular wages and some self employment wages and they just have to keep filing every week until both unemployment and emergency unemployment can take a look and see what they're actually eligible," explained Gardner.
Gardner says that the Montana Department of Labor and industry issued over $48 million in unemployment benefits in Montana in the last week of May. She also wants to reminds those filing that they need to check on the status of their application every week.
"It's not just file once and then get a whole bunch of money," said Gardner. "They file and then they actually have to go in every week and say yes I want a claim for last week, this is how many hours I worked, this is how much money I earned. In order to see if they're still eligible for unemployment.'
How says she hopes to get an answer soon as she is the sole provided for her two daughters and she's lost thousands of dollars due to the pandemic. She's also hopeful this tourist season will boost her income and help her make up for lost time. However, she's unsure if people will actually come to Whitefish because of virus concerns.
If you would like apply for pandemic unemployment insurance please visit their website. If you need help navigating the application or have questions about it please give them a call at (406)-444-3382.
If you are applying for regular unemployment please visit their website.