Self-Employed Texans and the CARES Act


At the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), the health and well-being of our employers, employees, and communities is our top priority. We understand the concern and uncertainty you may be experiencing surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and we are committed to being responsive to the needs of our customers as the situation evolves.

Note: All information regarding COVID-19 is subject to change at any time due to the changing nature of the pandemic. Please revisit this page regularly for updates.

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U.S. Department of Labor Fraud Alert

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued an unemployment insurance phishing fraud alertPDF.

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Self-employed/Independent Contractors Benefit Eligibility

If you are self-employed, a contract worker, or previously worked in a position that did not report wages, you may qualify for unemployment and can apply.

If you already applied for unemployment benefits, TWC will determine if you qualify for either regular unemployment or any unemployment programs established through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and TWC will notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

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What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?

The CARES Act established the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. This program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals impacted by COVID-19 and who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits or other benefits, including self-employed workers.

The maximum number of benefit weeks under Texas’s regular unemployment insurance program is 26 weeks. However, for people who qualify, PUA can extend benefits to a maximum of 39 weeks. The 39 weeks includes any week of unemployment insurance (UI) or State Extended Benefits (EB) a claimant has already received.

For more information see Pandemic Unemployment Assistance page. 

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How to Apply for Benefits

Apply for benefits online or by phone:

  • Apply online at Unemployment Benefit Services (UBS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by selecting Apply for Benefits. 

  • Call our Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily and speak to a customer service representative.

If you are eligible for regular benefits, we must pay those benefits before paying PUA. To be eligible for PUA, you must have lost your job because of COVID-19 and indicate that on your benefits application. You must also certify that you meet one of the eligibility criteria

If you apply for benefits using UBS, select “reduced hours” as the reason for your job separation. If your reduced hours are a result of COVID-19, you should also select “COVID-19” under the disaster impact section. The system will then display questions you will need to answer to complete your claim.

After you submit your online application. The system will review your claim to see if you are eligible for regular benefits. If you are not eligible, you will receive a denial for regular unemployment benefits only. TWC will then automatically enroll you into PUA if you are eligible. The initial denial for regular benefits will not affect your PUA eligibility.

For more information about PUA eligibility and benefit payment amounts, see the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) page.

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Work Search Requirements Reinstated

As Texas continues to reopen, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is reinstating work search requirements for all claimants beginning November 1, 2020. Work search requirements were suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Self-Employed individuals who intend to reopen their business do not need to complete work search activities, but they must take steps to reopen. Self-employed individuals who do not intend to reopen their business will need to complete work search activities.

Take Steps to Reopen Your Business

In order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits if you are self-employed, you are required to take steps to reopen your business. You must tell us how many hours per week you spend rebuilding your business. 

Here are some examples of things you can do to reopen:

Remember to follow federal and state health guidelines when you reopen your business to ensure the safety of you, your employees, and your clients or customers. 

Not Reopening Your Business?

If you do not plan to reopen your business, you must actively search for full-time employment and record your work search activities: 

Claimants must certify they are completing their required number of work searches each week when they request benefit payment

For more information see:

Skills Enhancement initiative and Metrix Learning

Thinking about changing careers or getting a different kind of job? TWC offers Texas residents the opportunity to improve their skills and learn new skills through our Skills Enhancement initiative and Metrix Learning. 

Metrix Learning provides unlimited access to over 5,000 Skillsoft courses in English and Spanish plus more specialized courses, such as medical billing and coding and mathematics. Each course completion that you pass can build your skill level, and a Metrix course that is completed with a passing score can be one of your work search activities. 

For more details see our Skills Enhancement Initiative Career Tools web page


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Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Payment Request Instructions

Request benefit payment on your designated filing date and then every two weeks after that on your designated filing day either online or by phone. Do not wait for TWC to determine your eligibility. Your designated filing date and day are listed on the filing instructions we provided.

  • Log on to UBS 24/7 and select Request a Payment.

  • Call Tele-Serv at 800-558-8321 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and select Option 1.

You need to request payment on your designated filing day, which is listed on your filing instructions. Assigned filing days are Sunday through Wednesday. If you miss your designated filing day in any given week, you can submit your payment request on our open filing days, which are Thursday through Saturday.

For Workers, Employees, or Contract Laborers

You must report the total amount of wages before deductions, such as taxes. Report wages from all work, including any full-time, part-time, temporary, or contract work in the week you performed the work NOT when the earnings were paid. For example, if you worked during Week #1 but your employer paid you in Week #2, you must report the wages in Week #1the week when the wages were earned.

You must actively search for full-time employment unless TWC informs you that you are exempt. If you are required to search for work, TWC will mail you a Work Search Notification letter listing the required minimum number of work search activities you must make each week and the Guidelines for a Productive Work Search. You must keep track of the number of work search activities you do each week.

For Self-Employed Individuals

You must report earnings and commissions before deductions, such as operating expenses. Report your gross income in the week you receive the income, even if you performed the work in a prior week. For example, if you performed services in Week #1 but did not receive payment until Week #2, you must report the gross income in Week #2the week when you were paid.

You must actively take steps each week to return to normal business activities. You must tell us how many hours per week you spend rebuilding your business.

If you do not plan to reopen your business, you must actively search for full-time employment and record your work search activities to remain eligible for benefits. If you take another full-time, part-time, temporary, or contract job, you must instead report your wages in the week you performed the work NOT when the earnings were paid. For example, if you worked during Week #1 but your employer paid you in Week #2, you must report the wages in Week #1the week when the wages were earned. 

For more information on requesting benefit payment and reporting work and earnings:

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Proof of Income Requirements for Non-traditional Workers

If you are self-employed, an independent contractor (1099) or gig worker, and you worked for the entire year of 2019, you do NOT need to provide TWC with your complete 2019 IRS tax return including Schedule C, F or SE unless your net profit for 2019 exceeded $20,800. That is the minimum amount needed to increase your PUA weekly benefit amount (WBA).

You will continue to receive the $207 minimum PUA WBA if your net profit for 2019 was less than $20,800. Providing your income tax return is optional and will not affect your weekly benefit amount if your net profit was less.

If you worked as a 1099 independent contractor, do NOT send TWC your 1099 form. Your 1099 form will have no effect on your PUA WBA.

If your net profit was more than $20,800 and you submit your IRS forms and schedules, TWC will recalculate your PUA WBA and notify you of the change. If your PUA WBA increases, TWC will pay the difference retroactively to the date your employment was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your net profit for tax year 2019 was $20,800 or more, submit your complete 2019 IRS federal income tax return including Form 1040 and all schedules, such as C, F or SE to TWC by using our online UI Submission Upload portal (English) or UI Submission Upload portal (Spanish).

If you cannot use the online portal you can submit the proof by fax or mail. Due to the heavy volume of mail, processing the proof received by fax or mail will be delayed.

  • Fax: 1-512-936-3250

  • Mail: Texas Workforce Commission
    P.O. Box 149137
    Austin, TX  78714-9137

Note: Applicants who submit their tax information may not receive an immediate response. Please do not resubmit unless explicitly asked.

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Working While Receiving PUA

If you are working full-time, but lost your part-time gig, contract, or self-employed work, you will not be eligible to receive PUA benefits. Because you are working full-time, you are considered fully employed and therefore are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits. 

You may be eligible for benefits if you are working part-time. You must report all work and earnings each week that you worked when requesting unemployment benefit payment. You must also report any sick leave or vacation pay received or payments received from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). For more information, see our tutorial on How to calculate and report earningsPDF.


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Unemployment and Taxes

Unemployment benefits are taxable. Unemployment benefits must be reported on your federal income tax return. You can ask TWC to withhold 10 percent for federal income taxes from your unemployment benefit payments. For more information, see: Federal Income Taxes & Your Unemployment Benefits.

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