Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told Deadline he hopes the coronavirus relief bill will help entertainment industry workers get through tough times as stay at home orders and closings other than essential businesses continue throughout California.
“I think we were very fortunate to get this language in the bill that does cover most of the entertainment industry workers who are freelancers” said Schiff “or who go from contract to contract, or just had a contract but it was canceled, or was about to start a show but the show was canceled or at least their continued work on it was postponed.
Deadline reports the legislation expands the scope of unemployment benefits beyond those who have had traditional employer-employee relationships. Now freelancers, gig workers and independent contractors will be eligible for emergency coronavirus employment benefits for up to four months. The benefits also will be retroactive to Jan. 27, and the legislation increases the size of the unemployment checks by $600 per week.
Schiff, whose district covers Hollywood, Burbank and other areas heavy in the industry workforce, led a group of dozens of lawmakers who called for the relief package to include non-traditional employees. Unions and guilds also were concerned over freelance workers who had upcoming projects canceled.
Now the next step: Applying for benefits. Schiff said that those who want to get benefits will have to self-certify their eligibility, but it is not entirely clear yet what that process will entail. Schiff is urging those seeking benefits to apply to the state Employment Development Department — edd.ca.gov/unemployment — which itself could be overwhelmed by the sheer number of those seeking help.
“This is a caseload that I don’t think anyone ever contemplated, but I certainly hope” that the website has the capacity, Schiff said.
Schiff was in Washington on Friday and was present for the voice vote on the relief package. Many members were not and were back in their home districts. Schiff, though, said that he has remained in D.C. because he had been in self-quarantine after one of his former staff members came down with the virus.
Now that the bill, one of the largest Congress has ever passed, is law, there are some lingering questions of implementation.
The bill includes $350 billion for small businesses (defined as 500 employees or less) to stave off layoffs and continue to pay their employees. It provides eight weeks of federally guaranteed loans under a “paycheck protection program” to cover payroll and other costs for two months, with the loans turning into grants if the payroll is maintained.