(Side note: Has anyone noticed how long it’s been since I’ve written about shoes or pie? I need to work on that.)
Last week had its Not Good moments. Many/most/all of you know that I’ve been officially Not An Employee since August 26, 2008. That’s the date that “my” company laid me off, along with many others, during yet another in a string of restructuring moves. I had just begun a new project at the office, though, so I was immediately hired back on as a contractor and was back at a desk (not my desk, but a desk) by the end of the week. Without the interruptions of so many other little tasks that people always think “won’t take you any time,” I was able to complete the project in a couple of weeks, and then I filed for Unemployment to tide me over until I found another job, or my freelance work picked up enough to support me.
I’m sure I covered the original Unemployment saga earlier within the pages of this blog, but in summary: I applied. I was approved. Freelance work was frequent enough that I didn’t mind that there was clearly a problem with my claim, but when it dried up and so did my savings account, I had to start making phone calls to straighten things out. I finally started receiving benefits in May of 2009, eight months after I filed.
Fast forward: I had freelance work for three days in September. Well, one in August, and two in September. I claimed those three days on my bi-weekly benefits request, just as I’m supposed to. My payment was proportionately cut for that week, exactly as I knew it would be. And then, on or about September 5th, my benefits ran out.
I applied for an Emergency Unemployment Claim (EUC). Quickly: “Regular” benefits are determined by the State, and are paid by your previous employer(s). EUCs were put into place as a Federal program because of the high rate of unemployment, and the vast number of people who have run out of State benefits. They are paid with Federal funds, but still managed by the States’ labor offices.
The Department of Labor called. They were reviewing the paperwork for my EUC, and saw that I worked for three days. They needed me to send in any/all paperwork related to my work as a contractor, because they felt that it was not contract work, but that I was actually an employee of the company that hired me. Which would mean that I would not be eligible for an EUC, but would have to open an entirely new claim.
Um, exsqueeze me? That’s just silly. I sent the DoL a copy of my invoice for the three days of work that I did (for which I still haven’t been paid, by the way), as well as copies of invoices and receipts for the freelance work I did before I received any Unemployment benefits.
The DoL, using logic so flawed that I cannot even begin to comprehend their decision, determined that my freelance work was actually as an employee. The letter states, “… it has been determined that you were not free from control and direction in the performance of the service or you were not customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business related to the service.” Really? REALLY? My freelance graphic design business, which is a Sole Proprietorship registered with the State, is not a “customary” profession? Or is it that the work I did was under the “control and direction” of my clients? Isn’t that the case with ALL freelancers? I dare you to hire a contractor to paint your house, but give them no direction as to deadlines or color choices. See how far you get. I explained my disagreement to the representative at the DoL, and he curtly explained that it was the State’s official determination, and suggested that I write to my Congressman and ask him to change legislation. I shit you not.
This determination means that I am not eligible for an EUC. The Labor Department will instead open a new Unemployment claim for me. The benefits will again be paid by my previous “employer” (thus guaranteeing that the company will NEVER hire me as a freelancer again) at a percentage of my wages for the last two quarters. I don’t like to discuss hard numbers, but it’s relevant in this case: I billed $1200 during the last two quarters. That averages out to $46/week. I haven’t yet received the Determination of Benefits letter, but I sure hope there’s some sort of minimum, because a percentage of $46/week doesn’t exactly seem useful.
In other news last week, I was turned down by my bank for the Mortgage Loan Modification Program. This program is supposed to stave off foreclosures for people in hardship situations by bringing mortgage payments down to 30% of your income for 5 years, and then jumping back up to whatever the interest rate is at that time. I didn’t meet the automated prequalifying conditions, so I went in through a back door to speak to a Wells Fargo mortgage consultant who shall remain anonymous (as well as my connection to him or her). This person couldn’t go into my specific account, but assessed that I was most likely turned down because I’m not behind on my payments. The suggested solution? Stop paying my mortgage. Re-apply for a loan mod when I’m 30 days late, and if I still don’t qualify, apply again at 60 days/30 days late. Hope that I get approved before foreclosure proceedings begin. And get my other financial ducks in a row now, because my credit score is about to take a big hit.
The moral of these stories? Doing The Right Thing will bite you in the ass.