Colorado sees thousands of independent workers apply for unemployment, but many confused on process

Posted at 7:11 AM, Apr 22, 2020

DENVER — More than 25,000 independent contractors have applied for unemployment benefits on the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment website.

Yet, many workers who have wages from both a W2 and independent contractor work are having trouble getting the help they need.

For the last several years, Erin Doty has worked as a yoga instructor, and she says business was good.

"Last year was a big year. I was very optimistic for this year and taking some few steps for my small business," Doty said. "It really varies month to month, but my consistent cliental locally is 25 independent contract positions, and that would include gyms, yoga studios, and the senior centers and dementia health clinics I work with."

Her business has taken a hit, losing about 70% of her income. For the first time, Doty is filing for unemployment, and her efforts have been filled with confusion.

"When the unemployment option was available, I started with the W2, filing for W2 assistance for those jobs that I had lost, which was only about 15% of my income," she said. "The bulk of it is independent contract work."

Doty is one of many workers with both W2 and 1099 wages as an independent contractor.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says their website didn't clearly tell people that the new platform is only meant for pure 1099 workers and have since made that more clear.

They say people who have W2 wages must first file a regular unemployment claim and wait until that expires before applying for assistance as a 1099 worker.

Sonya Graywolf is a certified public accountant and says many of her clients are hurting and looking for answers.

"A lot of people that are gig workers, they don't have a lot of savings, and they're out there needing to pay their rent, they're needing to pay their utilities," Graywolf said.