The Senate’s new relief package proposal is a failure for workers

Jul 29, 2020

On Monday, after weeks of delay, the Senate released its next proposed stimulus package: The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act. The $1 trillion package is the Senate’s response to the House’s proposed HEROES Act, which passed in mid-May.

After a week of Senate infighting after their return from vacation, this proposed bill landed not with a bang but a whimper. House leaders have already stated it won’t pass, and many Senate members aren’t happy with it, either.

Here’s what it does — and doesn’t do — for freelancers.

What it does

Unemployment:

  • The bill cuts the $600 FPUC payments to $200 and extends it until October.
  • After October, the federal payment would be calculated along with PUA/UI benefits, with the total paid amounting to 70% of the individual’s previous income.
  • It simplifies the PUA verification process by requiring states to use the already established Disaster Unemployment Assistance guidelines, which begins paying benefits immediately, giving recipients 21 days to provide their documentation.
  • It provides $2 billion for states to upgrade their UI agencies, better equipping them to process claims quickly and accurately.

Small business assistance:

  • The bill adds $60 billion to PPP and would allow some small businesses to take a second round of funding. To qualify for a second loan, businesses must be able to demonstrate at least a 50% reduction in gross revenues.
  • It also simplifies the forgiveness process, though there is as yet no word of the SBA issuing blanket forgiveness to all loans under a certain threshold, which freelancers are hoping for.

Additional aid:

  • The bill includes a second $1,200 direct payment to all U.S. citizens and residents who make less than $75,000/year, plus $500/dependent. This payment is not extended to those who are incarcerated.

Where it fails

  • Finally renewing FPUC weeks after it has expired, only to cut it by two-thirds, throws unemployed people into financial catastrophe.
  • The bill does not address the W-2/1099 issue, meaning freelancers will still be left with woefully undercalculated or rejected PUA claims.
  • No mention of rent or mortgage assistance.

Nobody expects this bill to be the one that ultimately becomes the next relief package — we’re at least a week of negotiations away from any agreements being reached. The silver lining of this torturous waiting game is that it means there’s still time for you to tell your representatives what YOU need a relief bill to do.

Especially because so many freelance creatives will be unable to return to work until live venues are able to open, either late this year or early next year, by best guesses, it’s critical that PUA provides a livable income for freelancers and traditional workers for the foreseeable future. We’ve teamed up with a coalition of entertainment industry groups to continue pushing politicians on this front, but we need all our members to get involved, too.

Use our script to get in touch with your Senator and Congressperson and let them know why real, robust PUA benefits are non-negotiable. If you live in California, Rep. Adam Schiff has introduced a bill to address the W-2/1099 miscalculation issue, and he is asking for testimonials from people who have dealt with this problem. Our power is in the reality of freelancers' day-to-day struggle. Share your story and force politicians to step up and do their part to make it better.