How self-employed people can apply for unemployment benefits

How self-employed people can apply for unemployment benefits

A lot has been happening as governments and communities work together to navigate the new and uncertain landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who are self-employed may be wondering how some recent news about government payments and unemployment might work.

We’re here to help.

It was recently announced that a sweeping stimulus package had passed, which would allow for one-time payments to individuals and families. These payments would equal $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, plus $500 payments per child under 17. These checks are expected to be sent over in the next few weeks. If you are self-employed, fall into the parameters above, and filed a tax return in either 2018 or 2019, you should be receiving a government check.

Additionally, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides assistance for displaced workers not normally eligible for regular or extended benefits. If you previously applied for unemployment benefits and did not earn the necessary wages to qualify, don't worry. You will be contacted by the Texas Workforce Commission via mail or electronic correspondence if you qualify under the new stimulus bill. In Texas, you can apply for benefits over the internet through Unemployment Benefits Services.

What you'll need:

Before getting started, be sure that you have all the necessary information on hand to complete your application. This includes:

  • Social Security number
  • Number of hours you worked and your pay rate if you worked during the week you apply (including Sunday)
  • Military employment (service) start/end dates and a copy of your DD Form 214(s)(member copy 4 through 8), if you served in the military during the past 18 months
  • Alien Registration number (if not a U.S. citizen or national)

Once you have that information, you should be ready to begin. One thing to note before you dive in - traffic to this site has been unprecedented so expect some pretty unreasonable load times. If the site keeps crashing on you, try again at the oddest hour you can think of (ex. late at night or very early morning).

Step 1:

Start by navigating to Unemployment Benefits Services at The site will require you to have a user ID and password in order to apply. Also note that your information does not save if you log off during the application process. The system will also automatically log you off if you do not use an action button for a period of 30 minutes or longer.

Use your user ID and password to log in to the system:

The system will also ask you to enter your social security number (SSN):

The initial questions will determine whether or not you are eligible to apply for benefits online or if you must call the TWC Tele-Center at 800-939-6631.

At this point, you will be taken through the questionnaire, which includes several different sections.

Step 2: Tax Withholding Option

Unemployment benefits are considered taxable income, meaning you must report all the unemployment benefits you received on your federal tax return. One option is to ask TWC to take federal income taxes out of your benefits. If you choose this option, 10% of each payment will be withheld to go toward your taxes. This is optional. TWC will not withhold benefits without your permission.

Step 3: Last Employer

This section focuses on details surrounding your last place of employment. It will ask for things like your last employer’s identification, location, name, as well as dates worked, salary, work hours, and the reason you are no longer working there. Self-employed individuals may enter "self-employed" for the last employer's name and include his/her own address and contact information in lieu of the "last employer's address and contact information."

Step 4: Continuing Unemployment Service Information

Next, you will have to choose your personal identification number (PIN). This is required and serves as a passcode that you will need to access all TWC Tele-Serv services as well as some TWC internet services. Please note that a PIN has the same legal authority as your signature.

Step 5: Payment Option

You can choose how you would like to receive your unemployment benefits; the options are to receive them via a debit card or via direct deposit to a United States bank or credit union account. New claimants for unemployment benefits will have the default method set to debit card. This can be changed by selecting “No” on the Payment Option page, which will redirect you to the Change Payment Option screen.

Returning Claimants will see the payment method they have on file for you on the Payment Option screen. To change your payment method, select Yes and complete the Change Payment Option screen.

Step 6: Review & Submit Application

Once you have completed all sections, you’ll be directed to a screen that allows you to review and submit. You’ll see all the answers and information you entered and you have the opportunity to make changes by selecting the Edit Information link at the end of each section. Carefully review your answers for accuracy and correct any errors before submitting your application. Once you are finished reviewing, select Submit for your claim to be processed. The application will not be complete until you submit it and receive a confirmation number.

Step 7: Keeping Your Claim Confirmation

After you hit the submit button, the program will display your Claim Confirmation. You may want to print the confirmation page for your records or write down the claim confirmation. Please note that you cannot make changes online after you have submitted your application, but you can call the Tele-Center if you need to change information on your application. Call the following business day at 800-939-6631. When you are finished, click Next to go to the Next Steps section.

Next Steps, Requirements, and Instructions

Your application is still not complete until you finish the Next Steps, Requirements, and Instructions section, which explains what you need to do to remain eligible for unemployment benefits if you qualify. It also includes information on:

  • Registering and searching for work
  • Being able to and available for work
  • The waiting week

Once you have completed all necessary steps in this section, your application will be complete. It takes roughly four weeks from the date you applied to know if you are eligible. If you receive any contact requests or other communications, be sure to reply promptly. You can also check the status of your application at Unemployment Benefits Services or call Tele-Serv at 800-558-8321 and select option 2.

Looking for health insurance, too?

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