Today, the Senate returns from a two-week vacation. Back in May, Congress passed a second major stimulus package called the HEROES Act with a number of major relief programs for Americans still suffering under the coronavirus pandemic. It’s been waiting in the Senate ever since.
In less than a week, the CARES Act-mandated $600 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation will end. For thousands of freelancers whose unemployment insurance benefits were miscalculated, some receiving less than $100/week, that additional FPUC payment is the only thing keeping them above water. If it is allowed to end, it will be a catastrophe for millions of struggling people who remain unable to work.
This is why the Freelancers Union is demanding that the Senate take action now.
What we need is an overhaul of the PUA program that will accurately calculate every worker’s unemployment benefits based on their entire income — both W-2 and 1099 — not just a portion of it. We need to ensure that everyone who lost work is able to receive the unemployment benefits they were promised back in March. And we need a better support system to get us through a crisis that shows no sign of ending, including ongoing stimulus payments for all and rent and mortgage forgiveness.
We sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer outlining these demands today. We need every one of you, the Freelancers Union community, to get in touch with your senators and demand the same. Freelancers have been an afterthought for too long during this crisis. Let’s make sure they don’t leave us behind once again.
Find your senator’s contact information here, and use the below script to send them an email message about why relief can’t wait any longer. The more personal stories they hear from constituents, the harder it will be for each senator to deny the aid that is so sorely needed.
Dear Senator [NAME],
I am your constituent and a member of the Freelancers Union. I write today to express deep concern about the millions of freelance and self-employed workers like myself who continue to experience unprecedented income loss because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With PUA systems still excluding many freelancers, and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation set to expire in the coming weeks, we are on the edge of even greater financial catastrophe.
[Tell your personal story with PUA/UI here, if you have one]
I urge you today to support freelancers and all Americans in the next relief bill by instituting the proposals below:
1. 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.
2. Expand 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 leaves out the hundreds of thousands of freelancers who have experienced canceled contracts due to the sharp decline in the economy.
3. Extend Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation until the pandemic is over.
4. Extend a monthly stimulus payment of $2,000.
5. Establish rent and mortgage forgiveness.
The next stimulus package must serve freelancers. I urge you to prioritize these policy changes.