Ridiculous, but this is the world we live in: rules and regs are stuck in an era where the Internet doesn’t exist.
A laid-off attorney (going by “Karin”) started a blog posting about meal specials in St. Louis. She signed up for Google Adsense, the service that pays bloggers and webmasters to host ads on their sites. After three months of blogging and receiving unemployment benefits (at $405 a week), she received a check from Google.
Forbes reports: “When the check came in, Karin realized she had a legal obligation to disclose the income to New York State [where she had last worked and therefore the state that was paying her unemployment benefits], even though doing so might reduce the weekly unemployment benefits she received….It was after Karin notified the Department of Labor of her AdSense income that the confusion started. New York cut her weekly benefits to $300 and sent her a form to fill out and send to her employer. Unsure whether Google was considered her employer, Karin called the DOL to get an answer. She says a state official told her she shouldn’t have claimed the AdSense payment as income because it was ‘residual,’ meaning a payment made for services previously rendered.”
Confused, she contacted New York State again, stating that all she was doing was running a blog. The NYS DOL concluded that she was self-employed and no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.
She contacted them again and was told she would have to claim earnings every time she received an AdSense check. She called yet again and was told she needed to declare she was working every time she updated her blog.
Forbes couldn’t get a clear answer on what’s going on, despite “several calls.”
“Such payments are ‘uncharted territory’ and questions of eligibility are ‘very case specific,’ according to a DOL spokesman.”
Meanwhile, Karin’s removed the ads from her blog.
The one (minor) bright spot in this whole mess: at least the DOL considers what we do “working.”