Less than two weeks before the end of 2020, Congress passed a $900 billion relief package last night that is expected to be signed quickly by the president, averting a major crisis that would have been caused by the expiration of PUA and other essential relief measures.
The package is an increase from the $500 billion “skinny bill” proposed by Senate Republicans in September, but is a drastic reduction from the $2.2 trillion HEROES 2 act passed by House Democrats in October. It includes a number of essential relief provisions, but does not go far enough to provide the kind of material assistance needed by the millions of freelancers who have been unable to work for the past nine months.
We're thrilled that two pieces of legislation that we have supported over the past few months - the Save Our Stages Act and the Mixed Wage Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act - were incorporated into the bill. For those independent businesses in the nightlife and music industry, many of whom are freelancers or work closely with freelancers, the $15 billion in funding will be a lifeline as they remain closed to comply with safety guidelines. In September, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined us for a town hall where he promised to champion these freelancer issues in relief negotiations, and we're grateful to him and all of the political leaders who have listened to Union members speaking up about their needs during this dark time.
Here’s what is included in the current package:
- Extension of the PUA program for 11 weeks
- A renewed FPUC benefit of $300/week for for 11 weeks
- A $100/week fix for mixed W-2/1099 earners whose PUA benefits have been miscalculated
- A $600 stimulus payment per adult and child for U.S. citizens whose 2019 income was less than $75,000
- $284 billion for PPP; businesses will be allowed to receive a second round of funding
- $20 billion for EIDL grants
- $15 billion for direct SBA grants to independent live music & performance venues
- A 15% increase in in SNAP benefits
- Extension of the CDC’s eviction moratorium through the end of January
- $25 billion in rental assistance to be distributed by the states
It appears this reduced package is not intended to be the last word on coronavirus relief, as two main sticking points - funding for state and local governments, a priority for Democratic leaders, and corporate liability protection, a priority for Republicans - were left off the table in the interest of passing something before the end of the year. It’s believed that these provisions will be revisited in January or February, after the Georgia runoff elections determine the makeup of the Senate.
We know more robust support - full rent & mortgage forgiveness, a return of the FPUC benefit to its original $600 level, stimulus payments that will allow all workers to stay home safely until the pandemic is ended - is still needed. That’s why we will continue to advocate for freelancers’ needs in January, once the Biden administration takes office and the new Senate is seated. In the meantime, we'll keep you updated on the implications of this package.