House Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Extend COVID-19 Benefits To Mixed Income Workers

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This week negotiations are expected to begin in earnest on another coronavirus relief package, one that leaves open the question of whether to extend a $600-per-week boost in unemployment benefits.

But some workers in entertainment and other industries fell into a category that made them unable to obtain the full benefits.

Those are workers who earn a mix of W-2 employment and independent contractor income.

Although the coronavirus legislation passed in March expanded the eligibility of unemployment benefits to freelancers, gig workers and others, these mixed income workers were excluded from the enhanced benefits.

On Monday. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) introduced legislation to close the oversight. The bill (read it here) would allow them to opt into the coronavirus unemployment benefits rather than a state’s regular payments. The criteria for qualification includes earning at least $7,250 in self-employment income in 2019, having a loss of work due to the virus, and otherwise being eligible for regular state unemployment benefits.

Harvey Mason Jr., the chairman and interim CEO and president of the Recording Academy, said that the legislation would address a problem that has hit the music industry, where workers have changing sources of income.

“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 in a statement. He added that the legislation “is a critical solution that will help so many in our community receive the fair benefits that they deserve.”

Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA, said that the bill “corrects an unintended flaw” in the original relief legislation that “resulted in affected performers receiving a fraction of the weekly benefits they are owed as taxpayers.”

The legislation is contingent on Congress passing a new relief bill, and the clock is ticking. The enhanced unemployment benefits are due to expire at the end of this week.

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