UPDATED with WGA East: Entertainment industry union leaders are applauding Congress for today’s passage of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, part of which expands key benefits for hundreds of thousands of industry workers who have lost jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown of film, TV and theater productions across the country.
The CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed today, expands access to unemployment benefits for many of the industry’s suddenly employed workers, and adds an extra $600 a week on top of their regular state unemployment benefits for four months, as well as $1,200 in direct payments to most taxpayers.
Here’s how Hollywood organizations are reacting (keep refreshing for updates):
Actors’ Equity Association
Mary McColl, executive director of the theater organization, whose members have been left suddenly unemployed by the closure of live theaters all across the country said: “We are grateful to all of the members of Congress who strove to include provisions to protect arts and entertainment workers. Thousands of our members will now qualify for unemployment insurance in cases where they had booked work, but not yet started it. In this unprecedented time, swift, decisive action is what will protect our workers nationwide. Furthermore, additional funding for the National Endowment for the Arts can be used to strengthen the institutions that give our members work, benefit local economies and enrich the lives of everyone who enjoys the arts.
“The fight to protect arts and entertainment workers has only begun. We still have tremendous uncertainty before us. But for now, many of our members will have a little more security about being able to pay their rent and feed their families in the meantime. We will continue to fight for more arts funding so the arts can contribute culturally and economically to their communities.”
“We applaud our allies in the House and the Senate for including provisions that provide access to vital lifelines, including unemployment benefits and direct cash payments, for our members and hundreds of thousands of creative workers whose unique working situations were a barrier to such critical relief,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “Lawmakers have heeded our urgent calls to address the needs of our members and others, everyday working men and women, who were so hard hit by the coronavirus crisis as film and television production shut down, including aid for those whose future projects were canceled.
“We thank Congressional leadership and the lawmakers championing the critical work of our members whose films and television programs entertain billions of people around the world. This support will keep them protected and will allow them to come out strong on the other end when they’re able to continue work again. We urge the President to approve these protections, which will soon put much needed money in the hands of our members and their families.”
Department of Professional Employees
“We are thankful that this coronavirus aid bill ensures COVID-19 related economic relief applies to professionals in the arts, entertainment, and media industries,” said Jennifer Dorning, president of the coalition of 24 unions, including all of the entertainment industry’s guild and unions that have been advocating for expanded relief benefits. “By coming together and mobilizing their members, DPE affiliated arts and entertainment unions made sure lawmakers took into account the unique working situations of creative professionals and expanded access to economic support.”
The union, whose members have lost more than 120,000 jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown, said that “Entertainment workers will now receive economic support to help make up for the income lost due to cancelled or postponed work, and that money will soon be in the hands of working families. “However, our work is not done – the crisis continues and so does the fight. The IATSE remains focused on ensuring that subsequent COVID-19 relief legislation includes pension relief, access to affordable healthcare, and economic support for the entertainment industry to put people back to work. We also stand in solidarity with our brothers, sisters, and kin on the front lines of this coronavirus pandemic and call for increased safety and protections as they seek to help others. We look forward to the day when entertainment workers can start helping the country heal, but we must first mitigate this public health crisis and ensure we sustain working people until they can safely return to work.”
“The Motion Picture Association applauds Secretary Mnuchin and Congress on the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” cairman and CEO Charles Rivkin said. “The ongoing COVID-19 crisis is a threat to the entire global economy, including creative industries. In the United States alone, the film, television, and streaming industry supports 2.5 million jobs and 93,000 small businesses – 87 percent of which employ fewer than 10 people. This bill provides critical relief for independent contractors, freelancers, and small businesses who are the backbone of the entertainment industry and among those whose livelihoods are hardest hit by the current public health crisis. Industry stakeholders, including unions, guilds, and theater owners, worked tirelessly to achieve this important relief.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Congress and the Administration in the coming weeks and months to build on this progress. As an industry, we stand ready to assist efforts to protect the health and safety of our employees, our customers, and the public. To date, our members and industry partners have contributed to public service announcements (PSAs) and the distribution of the most current news and information on COVID-19, offered free children’s programming and educational resources for parents to support in-home learning, supplied personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare providers and first responders, and donated to relief efforts in local communities.”
“I would like to thank members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives — including the many individual legislators who have advocated for us in Washington, D.C., this past week — for their support of this critical legislation,” president Gabrielle Carteris said. “This emergency stimulus package contains some key elements that will apply to our members, including higher weekly unemployment benefits, extended weeks of unemployment benefits, a one-time check for every American and their children under a certain annual income, and a special Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for those who are not eligible for unemployment currently, such as independent contractors.
“I would also like to thank my fellow SAG-AFTRA members, our sister entertainment industry unions, our industry employers and our industry trade associations for reaching out to their elected officials to ask for economic inclusion. Together, we sent the clear message that the arts and media sector is a vital part of the economy that cannot be left behind when considering relief for workers affected by COVID-19.
“While there is little cause for celebration in these uncertain times, these are real gains for our members who may be suffering, and we are grateful for the added government assistance. We will continue to fight for our members through legislation and other means in every way possible.”
“As the entertainment industry grapples with the devastating impact of COVID-19 and shutdown of production worldwide, the working professionals at its heart have found champions in Congress,” the guild said. The Writers Guild of America West applauds our federal representatives for answering our collective pleas to allow our members access to federal emergency benefits. The CARES Act provides both direct funds and unemployment benefits for entertainment workers who, without this bill, were ineligible for most forms of relief because of the intermittent nature of our work.
“The content our members write, and that our industry brings to life, is keeping the nation informed and entertained as we stay home to curb the spread of COVID-19. We urge our federal leaders to continue to support us and provide needed economic stimulus, including relief for our pension plan and additional economic support for those most in need.”
“Everyone who loses work because of the public health crisis stands to benefit from this legislation, including regular ‘staff’ employees who might face layoff,” WGA East president Beau Willimon and executive director Lowell Peterson told their members. “The Act improves unemployment benefits for everyone, and provides additional forms of relief.
“We want to thank the huge number of WGAE members who got active in this struggle in the last two weeks. About 1400 of you took the time to call or email their Representatives and Senators, urging them to make sure this fiscal stimulus legislation included gig/entertainment workers. Many thanks to staff and activists at the WGAE, and at our sister unions, and at the AFL CIO’s Department of Professional Employees, for weeks of intensive work on this important project.
“WGAE staff continues to immerse itself in the details of the CARES Act, and how WGAE members can make use of it if they lose work opportunities because of the COVID 19 crisis.”
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