SAG-AFTRA and a coalition of roughly 45 entertainment industry organizations sent a letter on Friday to leaders of Congress that highlights the ways implementation of the CARES Act has fallen short in assisting workers in need in the entertainment community and requests that these flaws in implementation be remedied in a new CARES Act COVID relief package. In the letter, the organizations point out the implementation of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program has overlooked workers who have mixed income and report it on W-2 and 1099 forms.
“For those of us in the creative field to survive – and recover – after this crisis, we must be able to access the full support intended by Congress,” the groups stated in the letter. “Given the unique nature of our industry, many in our profession work from project to project and gig to gig, not only in multiple jobs but in various capacities. As a result, creators often find themselves working as employees receiving W-2 wages and as independent contractors (or otherwise self-employed) receiving 1099 income for performances, royalties, and other services. Unfortunately, implementation of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program has overlooked workers with mixed income.”
“In almost all cases that we see in every state, a minimum amount of W-2 income disqualifies a self-employed individual for PUA and significantly lowers the amount of assistance they receive. PUA must be updated to recognize these different income streams and allow individuals to show their mixed sources of revenue for a full accounting of their annual income,” the letter added.
The main loan program passed by Congress in the CARES Act on March 27 was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a $350 billion SBA initiative that aims to provide low-interest loans to small businesses in order to keep employees paid during the crisis. The loan comes with the offer that it can be forgiven by the SBA if at least 75% of the loan is used towards payroll. However, the coalition stated in the letter that due to the mixed income issue, ” the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) should be sure to allow payments to self-employed
individuals, including independent contractors.”
“The workers in our industry cannot afford to be shut out of federal assistance on such a technicality and any future plan should recognize self-employed individuals as eligible payroll participants,” the group argued.
“There is no sugarcoating this: the entertainment industry has been decimated, the group said in their closing statement. “We need help that only you can provide, in a way that recognizes the particulars of our industry.”