How should I decide when I became unemployed (...or who should I ask?)
June 29, 2016 11:27 AM   Subscribe

How should I decide when I became unemployed (...or who should I ask?)

I am preparing to apply for a range of public benefits, most importantly SNAP and SSI (not unemployment benefits), and I am struggling to figure out The Right Answer about the date when I became unemployed.

I have been "self-employed" for eight years: five as a 1099 contractor with a regular gig, then three while that gig tapered off plus doing odd jobs, some Etsy sales, caring for an ailing parent, and a business investment that went poorly. My tax 2015 return showed some business (self-employed) income but the amount was still below the federal and state poverty line. I've been spending savings to get by.

The forms are very clear that you must answer the questions truthfully, but I could see many different ways to pick the "correct" date... and I don't even fully understand the advantages/disadvantages of having that date be earlier or later. I've read all the official information I can find online but I haven't found any guidance on how to treat what's basically increasingly unsuccessful self-employment.

Does anyone have any insight that might help? Alternatively, recommendations on who I should consult for professional advice -- either public or private (if an attorney, what kind)? I want to get this right on the first go and I'd be very grateful for any of MeFi's wisdom and experience. Thank you.

(Anonymous because of the sensitivity of the topic, given who IRL knows my username.) Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (1 answer total)
You don't have to be unemployed to qualify for SNAP benefits. It's income-based.

For SSI, employment is relevant to the extent that you need to prove that you are incapable of substantial gainful employment (either not working or working and earning less than that year's monthly maximum, which you can look up). You can still be employed and get SSI if you meet the other requirements and earn less than that amount. Really the key date for SSI is the date you became disabled.

So I actually think any reasonable interpretation would be fair (I'd go with the last time I received a check from anyone in return for services), as long as your report of income is accurate. However! You don't have to rely on the guesses of Internet strangers. There is a whole cottage industry of lawyers who will help you file for Social Security benefits in return for a (regulatorily-fixed) percentage of recovery.
posted by praemunire at 1:13 PM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

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