Adam Schiff leads relief efforts for freelancers

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(CA Rep. Schiff seeks relief for freelancers)

Not only has the Coronavirus COVID-19 shut down the entertainment industry for union workers, it is having an impact on the industry’s freelance and contract workers as well. This is happening in advertising, too. One advertising freelancer told Reel 360, “All of my jobs dried up just like that.” California Rep. Adam Schiff, is seeking to address this unsettling situation.

Schiff is leading efforts in Congress to secure relief benefits for freelance and contract workers in the entertainment industry who have lost work because of the pandemic.

As first reported in Deadline earlier this week, and in our sister publication, Reel Chicago, IATSE says the shutdown has cost its 150,000 members some 120,000 industry-related jobs so far.

Schiff has joined three dozen other Democratic legislators in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging them to champion relief programs for the industry’s suddenly unemployed.

Schiff released this tweet yesterday:

“As Members representing many constituents who work in film, television, theater, and live music, we urge you to include protections for those who have lost work due to coronavirus-related cancellations and postponements in the entertainment industry,” the letter from Schiff states. “The unique freelance nature of work in film, television, theater, and live music means that a large number of the professionals who make these productions possible work only sporadically—often with extended periods between paying jobs—and count on income from each project to make ends meet,” the letter states. “As a result, many of them can’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits or paid emergency leave, yet will now be unable to cover their basic expenses due to lost work.

“The unique freelance nature of work in film, television, theater, and live music means that a large number of the professionals who make these productions possible work only sporadically—often with extended periods between paying jobs—and count on income from each project to make ends meet. As a result, many of them can’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits or paid emergency leave, yet will now be unable to cover their basic expenses due to lost work. ”

ALSO READ: #payuphollywood seeks to pay those out of work

Read the full letter from Schiff below:

“We are in the process of trying, in my office, to address the needs of so many people in the entertainment industry that may not qualify for the relief that we passed in the Families First coronavirus response act that we passed last week,” he told the two union leaders. “That bipartisan bill, which has yet to get through the Senate to the President, provides expanded access to emergency paid sick leave, emergency paid family leave to ensure that workers who are sick or caring for a family member or a child who is home from school are able to receive pay and still do what they should do as a productive member of society, but also mindful not to take risks not to pass the virus on to others or get it themselves.

“But there are still a lot of people that that doesn’t cover, particularly in the entertainment industry, where a lot of creative professionals have sporadic work schedules, contracts with different employers, so they may not be covered by these benefits that target traditional employees. So I’ve been leading a group of colleagues in the house to urge our leadership in the House that during the next round of legislation we expand protections to include freelance and contract workers in the entertainment industry and others who are similarly situated to make sure benefits can be calculated based on promised earnings from a contract that may be cancelled or postponed – not just retroactively or retrospectively based on prior work.”

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:

Thank you for your work on behalf of our nation advancing swift and decisive legislative responses to the emerging coronavirus crisis. The bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act that overwhelmingly passed the House on Friday, as well as the previously approved $8.3 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations, will help protect the health and financial security of families across the country as we confront this unprecedented challenge.

Already, the sweeping disruptions to public life that are crucial to slowing the spread of the coronavirus have sent shockwaves through the economy, bringing many industries to a standstill as workers and employers heed the instructions of public health officials and scale back all but the most essential activity.

In the coming weeks, it is critical that Congress provide relief to impacted workers and their families. Particularly hard hit are freelancers, contractors, and other independent workers who in many cases lack the resources of a large employer as well as unemployment and paid leave protections provided to traditional employees. As events are called off, contracts postponed, performances canceled, and other opportunities for work reduced, we must ensure that relief is provided to all affected workers, regardless of the structure of their employment.

In particular, we urge you to include protections for freelance and contract workers in the entertainment industry who have lost work because of coronavirus-related cancellations or postponements. For every worker or performer on stage or in front of the camera, there are dozens more who make their living in this industry—an industry in crisis, with virtually every workplace in the country shut down over the past week.

The unique freelance nature of work in film, television, theater, and live music means that a large number of the professionals who make these productions possible work only sporadically—often with extended periods between paying jobs—and count on income from each project to make ends meet. As a result, many of them can’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits or paid emergency leave, yet will now be unable to cover their basic expenses due to lost work. Many of these workers have arranged, contracted for, and planned on work on a film, television show, streaming program, commercial, theatrical or other live production that has been cancelled or postponed as a result of the coronavirus emergency. However, these union workers are not adequately protected by rules designed for traditional single-employer relationships, or even consistent multi-employer work as in industries like construction.

As Members representing many constituents who work in film, television, theater, and live music, we urge you to include protections for those who have lost work due to coronavirus-related cancellations and postponements in the entertainment industry. Due to the unique, sporadic nature of work in this industry, we believe that benefits provided to these workers should be calculated based on verifiable anticipated earnings for a current or future contract that has been cancelled, rather than prior wage history.

Thank you for your attention to our constituents’ concerns in this unprecedented situation and your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Brendan F. Boyle (D-PA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Gilbert Ray Cisneros, Jr. (D-CA), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Jim Cooper (D-TN), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Debra A. Haaland (D-NM), Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr (D-GA), William R. Keating (D-MA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Alan S. Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Kathleen M. Rice (D-NY), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and John A. Yarmuth (D-KY).

CC: The Honorable Richard Neal
Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means

The Honorable Kevin Brady
Ranking Member, Committee on Ways and Means

SOURCE: Deadline

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