Additionally, the bill will provide full retroactive unemployment payments to workers who did not previously qualify for either regular unemployment or PUA, including the additional $600 weekly federal benefit implemented by the CARES Act.
To qualify for the transition to PUA, a mixed earner must have brought in at least $7,250 from self-employment earnings in 2019, have a qualifying unemployment reason for PUA and be otherwise eligible for state unemployment benefits. Notably, the bill provides significant leeway for individual states to decide “whether and when” to implement the expanded coverage – a condition that could leave self-employed workers in states that choose to delay or forgo implementation waiting indefinitely for more relief.
“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,” said Rep. Schiff in a statement. “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. Our bill will ensure that mixed earners are no longer excluded from this critical assistance because of the nature of their employment and income.”
Added Rep. Chu, “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. 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 Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act was crafted with input from a number of organizations, including many that represent self-employed music workers. Among others, they include the Recording Academy, Music Artists Coalition, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Future of Music Coalition, American Association of Independent Music, Songwriters of North America, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
In a release, Recording Academy chair and interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. praised the new bill. “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,” he said. “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.”
The Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act, which does not yet have a companion bill in the Senate, represents a significant victory for advocates of self-employed workers -- though there are more hurdles ahead. As of this writing, the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits provided under the CARES Act are due to run out at the end of July, threatening to strike a major blow for workers who have come to depend on the extra aid.