The Authors Guild is leading a coalition of creator groups in lobbying for unemployment benefits for all freelance workers who have lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis. The CARES Act relief package provides Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to freelance workers, but only if they have been affected by one of the 11 COVID-19-related reasons and do not have the “ability to telework.” This can be read to exclude many thousands of freelance writers and other creative workers, leaving them without recourse for lost income.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the Guild and the 18 other organizations representing writers, visual artists and songwriters, called attention to the lack of benefits in existing COVID-19 relief packages for freelancers who are seeing a significant drop in income because the work simply isn’t there. Over half of the 954 respondents to our member survey last week reported some drop in income since the start of the crisis, and that is surely expected to deepen as the crisis continues and the economy slows down. To prevent this decline from becoming a disaster for freelance workers, we recommended language to amend the existing PUA provision or clarifying guidelines from the Secretary of Labor to expressly include freelancers and independent contractors who can show losses in income that coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.
We also sent our letter and recommended changes to the PUA to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, and 32 other Democratic Senators, along with our gratitude for their assistance in asking the Department of Labor to ensure that workers, like creative freelancers, are covered by the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program and receive the benefits they deserve. We expect that the lawmakers who, despite opposition, have so far championed the cause of freelance workers and writers will use our recommendations as they work on Phase 4 of the coronavirus relief package.
You can read our letter below.