DWD says self-employed people could begin receiving benefits next week

MARATHON COUNTY, Wis. (WSAW) -- Newschannel 7 has learned the DWD has not yet given any benefits to self-employed people. It will start sending those benefits next week.

A hair stylist at Kasha Salon wears a mask while working on a client (WSAW Photo).

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA is for people who work for themselves. People were able to apply on April 21st. Some have been in the dark for months about whether that money is coming.

Newschannel 7 talked to about 10 salons that had to close down. None of their employees know if they are eligible or have received benefits.

Stylists at Kasha Salon in Wausau run their businesses under one roof.

"Going into 10 weeks, that's a huge hit on all of us as self-employed people," said owner Angela Hoernke.

People who had to close their own businesses can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. In Wisconsin, those eligible are promised up to $370 weekly.

"We have not seen anything, not given any direction, nothing from the state, nothing to let us know if we are still going to get anything for all those days that we have missed of income," Hoernke said.

With no answers, she closely followed the lawsuit to overturn the Safer at Home order and made sure to be ready to open as soon she got additional safety measures in place.

"We didn't have that choice. So if we would've had the money maybe we would’ve stayed closed a little longer just to see where the numbers were at, but because the numbers were so low in Marathon County, we all felt comfortable that we should be okay and if we do the right safety and sanitation protocol we could definitely be able to service our guests," she said.

Hair stylist Kristian Raspanti is in a similar situation. She owns Hair by Kristian . She says she and other stylists she knows feel trapped.

"I'm kind of forced into working, yet I don't know if it's safe, but I don't know when I'll see money. I think it's really confusing and scary for a lot of us," she said.

She’s waited hours on the phone trying to get answers from the DWD.

“I’ve tried as hard as I personally can to get some kind of communication. I’ve spent two and a half hours on a wait to get through to the DWD, and the person who had answered had no… she had no information for me at all, and said that she had none,” Raspanti said.

State lawmakers haven't helped either.

"Honestly I feel like they are just as confused as we are," she said.

Raspanti is pregnant. She’s made the decision not to work and to rely on her husband’s income.

“Our profession, we rely on touching people. I’m six inches away from a head for an hour and a half. I’m choosing to stay home longer because I do worry,” she said.

Despite her choice, she’s frustrated she can’t get back the money she would have made at work.

“We had no choice. And yeah, it was for our protection, I’m not angry about it. I would’ve liked to work longer. I have a baby on the way. That was my maternity money. And now all of that money that I had saved to take off to have the baby is gone, because I was forced to pay bills without an income,” she said.

The DWD told Newschannel 7 it will begin to make decisions about eligibility by the end of this week. People who run their own business could start to see benefits as early as next week. Workers will be able to receive all of the money, even if they are already back to work.

The DWD says the delay in benefits is due to issues with Regular Unemployment (UI), which made them unable to move on and get other categories of people their benefits. Each application has to be manually read by an employee, prolonging the process.

To learn more about PUA, click here .