07.20.20

Schiff, Chu Introduce Legislation to Ensure Unemployment Relief For Independent Workers With Mixed Income Types

Workers With Both Independent And Traditional Employment Are Currently Ineligible For Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Washington D.C. – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) introduced the Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act to ensure that workers who earn a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent (e.g. 1099) employment income are able to fully access the unemployment assistance provided in the CARES Act.

“For many workers, the relief provided by the CARES Act is making a crucial difference in helping make ends meet during this unprecedented period of disruption. Yet due to the nature of independent work, particularly in industries like entertainment, many workers are currently excluded from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance because they earn a living through a mix of self-employment and traditional W-2 jobs,” said Rep. Schiff. “Our bill will ensure that mixed earners are no longer excluded from this critical assistance because of the nature of their employment and income.”

“The coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a halt for millions. Fortunately, we were able to quickly respond and through the CARES Act put support into the hands of workers who need it. But our traditional system of supporting unemployed workers was not set up for nontraditional workers with mixed income, like the many artists and craftspeople in my district who supplement a W-2 with independent gig work,” said Rep. Chu. “There is no reason these workers should be penalized now for having a mixed income. I’m proud to work with my colleague Rep. Adam Schiff to make this common sense change to recognize the various ways our constituents earn a living and ensure they are rightly compensated for that during this crisis.”

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program created by the CARES Act provides unemployment compensation to independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers, and others not normally protected by state unemployment insurance benefits. However, workers who earn a living through a mix of independent and traditional W-2 jobs are currently excluded from PUA even if they have lost a substantial portion of their income due to coronavirus-related disruption of their independent work. Due to the sporadic and unpredictable nature of independent work, many freelancers and self-employed workers in a wide variety of industries—and especially in music and entertainment—cannot access this crucial relief.

A recent NBC News article highlighted stories of mixed earners across the country who have received drastically reduced weekly benefits compared to what they would qualify for if they worked exclusively as either traditional employees or independently.

The Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act would ensure that mixed earners are able to access the same relief to make up for lost work that the CARES Act provided to those with more straightforward employment arrangements. Specifically, it would allow workers with substantial self-employment income to opt into the PUA program, which will enable mixed earners to receive unemployment benefits calculated based on their total earnings history from both wage and self-employment work.

“The entertainment industry is grappling with unprecedented job loss due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. As the industry works diligently to safely restart film and television production, entertainment workers are relying on unemployment benefits to feed and care for their families,” said Gabrielle Carteris, President of SAG-AFTRA. “The Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act, championed by Adam Schiff and Judy Chu, corrects an unintended flaw in the CARES Act that resulted in affected performers receiving a fraction of the weekly benefits they are owed as taxpayers.”

"Union creative professionals were among the first affected by the COVID-19 pandemic's economic impact, and many will likely be among the last workers able to return safely to their jobs due to longer-term social distancing requirements. It's crucial that Congress not just maintain economic support for them and other workers, but also ensure that the programs are administered so that all creative professionals can receive the maximum possible support. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a critical lifeline for workers providing the basics for themselves and their families during this historic crisis that's keeping them out of work," said Jennifer Dorning, President, Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO.

“The pandemic has exposed that our nation’s unemployment system is not designed for all workers, like music creators, leaving so many vulnerable and without assistance,” said Harvey Mason Jr., Chair and Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy. “The Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act is a critical solution that will help so many in our community receive the fair benefits that they deserve. The Recording Academy thanks Representatives Adam Schiff and Judy Chu for their tireless efforts to ensure that all workers have equitable access to unemployment benefits as our creative community faces the long-term effects of this unprecedented crisis.”

"Freelancers are experiencing the greatest financial crisis in modern history. With over 80% of our members reporting loss of income and work opportunities because of the pandemic, they are depending on government relief in record numbers. There are countless freelancers who have lost the opportunity to claim full UI benefits putting them at a further disadvantage to navigate this crisis. Moving forward we must ensure that all of their wages are taken into full consideration when PUA / UI is calculated in states across the country. Freelancers are rent burdened, depending on food assistance and left with no other recourse to provide for their families." said Rafael Espinal, President of Freelancers Union. 

To see a full list of quotes from industry groups endorsing the Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act click here.

While some mixed earners may currently qualify for regular unemployment compensation if they have lost their W-2 work, this can significantly under-measure their true earnings. And those whose W-2 income has continued but only represents a small portion of their earnings—for example, a worker who receives residual income from a previous project—are left with greatly reduced income yet are ineligible for any unemployment assistance. The Mixed Earner PUA Act would provide retroactive assistance to workers who have not qualified for regular unemployment compensation, and would allow states to choose whether and when to implement this expanded coverage for mixed earners.

In May, Schiff and Chu sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging that future coronavirus response legislation ensure that independent workers with multiple types of income are able to access the same unemployment assistance that the CARES Act provides to those with more traditional employment arrangements.

To read a one-page fact sheet of the bill, click here.

The full list of cosponsors includes: Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), André Carson (IN-07), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Jim Cooper (TN-05), John Garamendi (CA-03), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Debra A. Haaland (NM-01), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-00), Katie Porter (CA-45), Max Rose (NY-11), Janice D. Schakowsky (IL-09), Brad Sherman (CA-30), and Susan Wild (PA-07).

Organizations that support the legislation include: Actors’ Equity Association, All Creative Writes – New York, Alternate ROOTS, American Association of Independent Music, American Federation of Musicians, Americans for the Arts , American Photographic Artists , Artist Rights Alliance, Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston , Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge , Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville, Arts in a Changing America, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts – Tennessee , Asian American Arts Alliance, Association of Performing Arts Professionals , Atlanta Contemporary - Georgia, The Authors Guild, BMI, C4 Atlanta , California Lawyers for the Arts, CERF+ – the Artists Safety Net, Chamber Music America , Chocolate Factory Theater – New York , Chorus America , Christian Music Trade Association, Copyright Alliance, CreativeFuture, Dad’s Garage Theatre Company – Georgia , Dance/NYC – New York, Dance/USA, Department for Professional Employees – AFL-CIO, Digital Media Association , Dramatists Guild of America , The Field – New York , Folk Alliance International , Fourth Arts Block – New York , Freelancers Union, Future of Music Coalition, Graphic Artists Guild, Gospel Music Association , Guild of Italian American Actors , H?lau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine – Hawaii , Independent Music Professionals United, The International Association of Blacks in Dance Inc. , International Documentary Association, The Laundromat Project – New York , Lawyers for the Creative Arts – Chicago, League of American Orchestras, Live Nation, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts , Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, More Art Inc. – New York , Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA), Music Artists Coalition, Music Business Association , Music Workers Alliance, The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), National Alliance of Musical Theatre, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, National Coalition for Art’s Preparedness & Emergency Response, National Employment Law Project , National Independent Venue Association, National Press Photographers Association, National Writers Union, Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts – NY, Network of Ensemble Theaters, New Music USA, New Yorkers for Culture & Arts – New York , New York Foundation for the Arts, North American Nature Photography Association, OPERA America, PA’I Foundation – Hawaii , Performing Arts Alliance , Peters Valley School of Craft – New Jersey , Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, Power Haus Creative – Georgia , Recording Academy, The Recording Industry Association of America , Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Songwriters Guild of America , Songwriters of North America, South Arts , Southeast Community Cultural Center – Georgia , Southern Gospel Music Guild, Springboard for the Arts – Minnesota Lawyers for the Arts , Stage Directors and Choreographers Society , St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, Theatre Communications Group , True Colors Theatre Company – Georgia , TX/RX Labs – Texas , Universal Music Group, UrbanGlass – New York , Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts, and Writers Guild of America East.

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