Better federal relief is needed to solve the freelance crisis in America
It’s been seven weeks since the CARES Act, the first major piece of legislation aimed at addressing the coronavirus crisis, was signed into law. That law created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Paycheck Protection Program, two initiatives that were intended to provide critical aid for freelance and self-employed individuals, who have been doubly affected both by shutdowns to contain the spread of the virus and by the resulting economic downturn.
Nearly two months later, the facts are impossible to ignore: millions of freelancers — 84% of those who responded to our recent survey — haven’t received a dollar.
Today, we sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Small Business Committee Chair Nydia Velázquez, and the New York and California congressional delegations to demand that the government take action to solve this crisis. The letters, co-signed by 30 organizations that represent freelancers in film, media, and the arts, outline the big steps needed to make real change for the serious problems freelancers are facing right now.
In addition to the long-delayed rollout of PUA applications across the country, we’ve seen that a lack of guidance from the federal government has left states unsure how to proceed once freelancer claims are received. We’ve heard from many freelancers whose work history includes both W-2s and 1099s that their state unemployment agency denied their claims or granted them a fraction of the benefits they’re owed due to faulty calculations. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the realities of freelance work that cannot be allowed to stand.
Rather than wait for these systems to fix themselves, we need to take action now. We’re asking the federal government to:
- Extend a monthly stimulus payment of $2,000 for up to 12 months to all Americans regardless of citizenship status.
- Establish rent and mortgage forgiveness.
- Require states to include all income for freelancers in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance eligibility determinations and assistance calculations to ensure that freelancers are fairly awarded unemployment assistance. Specifically, states should calculate benefits using all income earned within the previous calendar year, including W-2, 1099 Misc, gross income reported on a Schedule C, and other self-reported income.
- Expand federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to include all workers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Current guidance extends PUA to individuals who are quarantined or have contracted COVID-19, are caring for family members with COVID-19, or have had their places of employment shut down because of COVID-19. This definition causes confusion and leaves out the hundreds of thousands of freelancers who have experienced canceled contracts due to the sharp decline in the economy.
- Extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance indefinitely until the coronavirus crisis ends.
The extended stimulus payment program has already been proposed in the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, which was introduced into the Senate last week by Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Ed Markey. And rent and mortgage forgiveness has been introduced into the House by Rep Ilhan Omar as the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act. We urge the House and Senate to pass these two pieces of legislation, in addition to the newly proposed HEROES Act, that will fix the PUA system and make it truly accessible to all.
As one of the 57 million freelancers in this country, you are a crucial part of the American workforce. Call, email, or tweet at your local representative to let them know freelancers won’t be overlooked any longer, and tell them they need to #fixPUAnow!