As new unemployment benefits roll out, some of the self-employed in ND and MN say they're feeling left out

Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 6:56 PM CDT
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Americans will start seeing the benefits of the $2.2 trillion bill in their bank account within the next two weeks, yet there’s one group still waiting for the fruits of that labor.

Those who are self-employed in Minnesota and North Dakota said they’re feeling left out.

Brianna Stevens said she was laid off from her job at a Fargo hotel once the coronavirus hit in mid-March.

“I was working 40 hours a week and all of a sudden it's gone. In an instant,” Stevens said.

Stevens said she was denied for unemployment benefits by North Dakota twice with the state claiming she didn’t meet certain requirements.

“I don't have no income coming in and it's very depressing,” Stevens said. “ I would love to just go back to work and live my normal life.”

For Stevens, that’s sure to change with North Dakota recently launching a section on its website allowing those unemployed due to COVID-19 to apply for benefits.

According to the North Dakota Job Service, anyone fired because of the infectious disease is eligible for unemployment under the new federal guidelines.

However, a group still not included in those benefits are small business owners or people considered self-employed.

Tina Lipper of Detroit Lakes for instance said she’s had trouble navigating the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's website.

“When I go under the unemployment website, it's very confusing,” Lipper said.

Lipper added she was forced to close her Detroit Lakes salon on March 17 after Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"[Minnesota is] still waiting for the guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to be able to add [the self-employed] in,” Lippert said. “And, they're looking at not being able to make any payments to us until the end of April. That's a month and a half without an income.”

In Becker County where Lippert lives, nearly 3.000 people have filed for unemployment benefits since March. In Minnesota, nearly half a million people have applied.

Although the self-employed can apply for unemployment, North Dakota and Minnesota said they shouldn’t expect any payouts.

Both states claimed they’re waiting on guidance from the department of labor.

In the meantime, some of those who were approved for unemployment should start seeing the extra $600 a week in their paychecks this week.