Self-employed workers may have to wait longer than others for unemployment money

Self-employed workers may have to wait longer than others for unemployment money

Mike Speenberg is a stand-up comedian.

"I worked for Carnival,” Speenberg told Action 9’s Jason Stoogenke. “I worked for Norwegian. I worked for Holland America. I still headline clubs. It’s my life."

He said he has rubbed shoulders with big names.

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“I worked with Robin Williams for a night in 2008 at the Riviera in Vegas,” Speenberg said.

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But the most memorable moment wasn’t in a normal theater -- it was in the theater of war.

"Baghdad, by far. That trip changed my life. That trip made me realize that bringing laughter to people is more than just, like, running around and having fun and being young at heart," Speenberg said.

He was a true globetrotter. Before stay-at-home orders and before being unemployed, Speenberg said, “I went from having a full calendar all the way pretty much through July to absolutely nothing. This is the longest I’ve had off in 20 years. This 2 1/2, three weeks, I’ve been cooped up at the house.”

"I saved enough money to get me through a couple of months but no more than three or four months," he said. "I didn’t save money to have it go away because of a virus. We were going to try to buy a house. We had plans."

People who are self-employed, such as Speenberg, weren’t eligible for unemployment but then a few weeks ago, the federal government passed the CARES Act. Now, self-employed workers are eligible.

But then the North Carolina Department of Commerce, which runs the state’s unemployment program, sent out a notice, which said it probably won’t be ready to process their claims until “around April 25.”

Stoogenke asked officials at the Commerce Department why it’s taking so long.

The agency said, "We have to program our system to meet the (federal) guidelines” for the self-employed workers.

People will still have to wait to get the money, because commerce officials said it takes 14 days or more.

If you're self-employed, you should still apply for unemployment now. Don't wait until April 25.

Many self-employed workers heard about the wait and emailed or messaged Stoogenke.

"It’s unbelievable!!” a self-employed worker said.

Another wrote, “That’s an insane amount of time to wait.”

"I’m not used to not having any income,” Speenberg said. “I’m not used to being unemployed. I don’t want government money, man. I just want to work. I just want to go out and make people laugh again.”