Industry & Advocacy News
October 13, 2020
The Authors Guild and 19 other organizations representing workers in creative industries sent letters to President Trump, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and congressional leaders emphasizing the need for adequate economic relief for mixed-income earners affected by the pandemic.
Creative industry organizations, including the Authors Guild, SAG-AFTRA, National Writers Union, Songwriters Guild of America, Freelancers Union, and others, have been working together as a a mixed-earner coalition to highlight the plight of workers who receive income from both traditional (W-2) and independent contractor (1099) sources, a large majority of whom are authors, actors, musicians, and other creators who often supplement income from their creative activities with part-time traditional employment. Because of the way the CARES Act—the prevailing pandemic economic relief package enacted in March—was drafted and implemented by states, these “mixed-income earners” are not entitled to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) intended to help independent contractors, but must rely solely on unemployment insurance, which is based on their W-2 income. That means that they receive benefits based on only a portion of their pre-pandemic income, and where their W-2 income was much less than their 1099 income, as is often the case for authors and freelance writers, their unemployment insurance payments can be miniscule. For instance, if a freelance writer earned around $50,000 a year from all sources, including $5,000 from a teaching job, which pays on a W-2 basis, and the other $45,000 from 1099 sources, the writer would only be able to collect unemployment as if their entire annual income were $5,000, not $50,000, and will not be eligible for PUA.
The coalition’s letter urges bipartisan support for the updated Heroes Act provisions that extend $125 per week in payments and restoration of the $600 weekly payment to mixed-income earners who reported $5,000 or more in independent income on their 2019 tax returns—in addition to the state unemployment benefits they may be eligible for and receiving. (The updated Heroes Act passed the House of Representatives on October 1, 2020, but has since been caught in political crossfire). In addition, the letter calls for increasing the weekly benefit to account for the 28 weeks mixed-income earners have gone without any or very little benefit payments, as well as for applying the benefits retroactively.
Below is the full text of the letter that was sent to congressional leaders (the exact letter was also sent to the president and treasury secretary).