The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) voiced its support for the HEROES Act, a coronavirus relief bill introduced this week by House Democrats in Congress.
In a statement, IATSE said that the bill’s provisions answer “many legislative priorities” pushed by the union, including an OSHA workplace emergency standard on infectious diseases, complete coverage of COBRA premiums through January, extension of the CARES Act’s unemployment insurance provisions and another round of economic impact payments of $1,200 with an additional $500 per child.
But the union also held some criticisms of the bill, asking legislators to restore the Qualified Performing Artist tax deduction that was removed as part of the Republicans’ 2017 tax cut legislation. IATSE says the deduction “would allow creative professionals to keep more of their hard-earned money during this crisis by deducting necessary business expenses from their taxes.”
IATSE also stresses that entertainment workers will need additional financial support as they are expected to be among the last to be allowed to return to work. While many states are making plans to allow some businesses to reopen, the nature of many aspects of the entertainment industry such as film production and stage shows will make it difficult to resume operation with social distancing.
The HEROES Act is expected to come to a vote on the House floor on Friday, though it has faced opposition from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on various grounds, including its expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program to allow access by K Street lobbyist groups and its decision to subsidize COBRA instead of placing unemployed individuals on Medicare.
Regardless of whether it passes, it is unclear whether the Republican-controlled Senate would take up the bill, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he will only consider legislation that includes liability safety for companies for any contraction of COVID-19 that workers suffer on the job. The Trump Administration also said earlier this month that it would not consider signing any further COVID-19 relief into law at least through the month of May.