More than three dozen organizations representing several facets of the entertainment industry have banded together for a call to action from government leaders. The Screen Actors Guild, Music Artists Coalition, Recording Academy and more have issued a joint letter to Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer urging further government assistance.
The letter outlines ways in which the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act have fallen short. From contracted workers to those self-employed, technicalities within the stimulus bill are said to overlook many within the industry and the “full support” of Congress is needed in order to recover from the pandemic.
“There is no sugarcoating this,” reads the letter, “the entertainment industry has been decimated. We trade in imagination, but the reality of our situation is dire. Today, we eagerly share our craft when we can – through video streams, on social media, or from apartment balconies. But it is not a viable ‘work from home’ solution and it will not sustain us. We need help that only you can provide, in a way that recognizes the particulars of our industry.”
The unions wrote that many industry workers receive W-2 wages but are also subject to 1099 forms for income that comes as an independent contractor. Citing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, the letter notes that these employees are overlooked under the program’s current pretext that “a minimum amount of W-2 income disqualifies a self-employed individual for PUA and significantly lowers the amount of assistance they receive.”
“The CARES Act does not recognize the full scope of small business arrangements prevalent within our industry. As the PUA mixed income issue and the actual operation of our industry make clear, 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.”
Further issue is taken with the Small Business Administration’s eligibility criteria and requirements for the self-employed to secure a loan, particularly in regards to net business income. The organizations wrote that this figure does not reflect the overhead costs that self-employed professionals face, including mortgages, health insurance premiums, equipment costs and more.
The letter ends with a call on the government to support the industry with access to testing kits which will prove necessary for all involved upon a future return to business. Additionally, full government commitment to contact tracing, treatments and a vaccine are requested in order for entertainment to resume with confidence, as well as the implementation of national safety guidelines.
Read the full letter here.