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Model Out of Work? Here's How to File for Unemployment

And avoid misclassification that could impact benefits.
how to apply for unemployment insurance as a model

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits in the U.S. has repeatedly broken records in the last few weeks as the coronavirus pandemic grinds the economy to a halt. Fashion professionals are among them, and while the unemployment system can be tricky for anyone to navigate, it can be especially confusing for models, who may be unclear about whether they're considered independent contractors or employees.

Understanding these complications, Model Alliance, which exists to promote the fair treatment of models, launched a how-to guide for models trying to file for unemployment.

"We made this guide bc, in NY, our workers are technically 'employees' for UI [unemployment insurance] purposes — & caselaw supports that classification — but the app process was confusing [sic]," tweeted Sarah Ziff, the founder of Model Alliance.

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The organization created an extensive 26-page step-by-step guide for models filing in New York that includes information about what information is needed before filing as well as screenshots that make navigating the Department of Labor website easier. 

There's also an FAQ page that includes information specific to California and Florida, where much of the rest of the modeling community lives. The guide explains a variety of potentially confusing areas, from whether or not a model needs to have been officially "furloughed" by their agency to file for unemployment benefits to the differences between Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

To see the full guide on how to file for unemployment as a fashion model, visit Model Alliance's website.

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