State labor officials announced Thursday they’re accepting applications for another key component of federal unemployment relief — grants for self-employed workers who’ve been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Self-employed, including independent contractors and freelancers, can request the $600-per-week federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance [PUA] benefit through a two-step application process at www.filectui.com, Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby said.

Westby also said his agency has now processed about 381,000, or 90%, of the applications for unemployment benefits filed since the pandemic struck Connecticut hard in mid-March. Much of this progress is due to emergency computer program modifications written and implemented in recent weeks.

Also about one week ago, Westby noted, the department began processing backlogged $600 federal payments to enhance state unemployment benefits for traditional workers.

“With hard work and determination, our agency has been able to process many of the 430,000 state applications received in the past six weeks, and we continue to work on responding to customers with questions about their claims or the unemployment process,” Westby said. “We recognize the important role unemployment benefits play in helping our residents weather the pandemic, and we are committed to providing the best service possible during this crisis.”

The self-employed are not eligible for traditional, state unemployment benefits. Under the PUA program, which is retroactive to Jan. 27, approved workers can receive up to 39 weeks of federal benefits.

Those who apply for PUA benefits first will receive a letter from the state labor department by traditional mail, said Deputy Labor Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo.

It will include a “monetary determination” that — among other things — restates what they already know: that they’re ineligible for state benefits.

But it also will direct them to gather information on their 2019 earnings and then return to the state website at filectui.com, Bartolomeo said. Self-employed workers affected by the pandemic then can complete their request for the federal PUA benefits. 

Labor officials said PUA applicants will need to provide various 2019 federal tax forms and W-2 statements. Those without tax records can self-attest to their earnings, but they will be subject to audit.

Applicants also will be asked the date when COVID-19 impacted their employment. 

Bartolomeo also urged all applicants to provide savings or banking account information in this second stage, so that benefits can be paid out through direct deposit. Otherwise, approved workers will be mailed a debit card,  a process that can take up to 10 days, she said.

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Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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