After weeks of deliberation, it looks like we are on the verge of a federal coronavirus stimulus package that will — crucially — include independent workers in an expanded unemployment insurance program through June. Last week, the federal government signed a bill including freelancers in a paid sick leave and family leave program for those affected by COVID-19. While these are major victories, there’s still work to be done.
States and cities are still working on their own relief responses to the coronavirus crisis, and speaking to your representatives — some of whom you may see regularly in your neighborhood — can have a profound impact. Among the programs cities and states control are small business loans, state unemployment programs, and rent and mortgage moratoriums. In addition, while the IRS has officially moved the federal tax filing deadline to July 15, many states have yet to do the same, leaving taxpayers on the hook for state taxes on April 15 after all.
We know that independent workers are under the greatest threat right now; at the best of times, freelancers operate without traditional employee protections like health benefits and unemployment insurance. They do so because they believe their independence is worth the risk, but no person should be asked to weather a global event such as the COVID-19 pandemic alone. Any and all financial safety nets that are implemented in this moment of economic crisis must include freelancers.
These are the three measures we believe will most help freelancers in this moment of crisis:
1. Establish temporary emergency measures to provide zero-interest loans to small businesses, including freelancers.
2. Establish disaster unemployment assistance programs that include all working freelancers and self-employed workers who have lost income due to the impacts of COVID-19.
3. Institute tax breaks and deferments of tax payments for self-employed individuals.
To get involved in the fight for freelancers' rights, contact your state and city representatives (find them here) and share these demands. Here is a sample script you can use:
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and freelancers face a disproportionate risk of financial hardship.
Unlike traditional employees, freelancers are excluded from receiving paid leave and unemployment insurance, and shoulder the cost of their own health and disability insurance. Without a concerted effort to extend relief to these workers, the economic impact of COVID-19 on independent workers will be nothing less than devastating.
As a member of the Freelancers Union, I demand that you include independent workers in all emergency unemployment, small business aid, and tax relief packages that are passed to relieve economic hardship during this crisis.
Direct action works. Elected officials prioritize the projects they believe their constituents care most about — and they gauge that support from the calls and letters they receive. Speak up now and make a difference!