Freelancers Union urges McConnell, Mnuchin to provide financial relief

REUTERS/Tom Brenner

On Tuesday, President of the Freelancers Union, Rafael Espinal, and a coalition of 25 independent film and media groups urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and other congressional members nationwide to ensure that freelancers will qualify for funding under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 

“A significant number of independent media makers and documentary filmmakers operate as freelancers,” Simon Kilmurry, executive director of the International Documentary Association, said in a release. “We have heard from thousands of those makers that their businesses have been shut down and that they have been shut out of the initial round of PPP. It is imperative that any new federal aid under PPP prioritize freelancers.”

The PPP is a loan designed by the US Small Business Administration (SBA) to incentivize small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll — a difficult feat given the economic hardships that have come during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a survey done by the Freelancers Union, more than 80% of freelancers working in independent media said they lost thousands of dollars in wages that came with the coronavirus shutdowns implemented by the government.

Freelancers were only allowed to apply for PPP loans on Friday, April 10, one week after applications were initially offered to small businesses. That only gave film freelancers four business days to apply before the SBA announced it was closing applications due to lack of funding. 

“I have heard from freelancers across the country who have lost gigs due to COVID-19. They’re unsure of how they will be able to pay the bills and the majority have yet to receive any of the relief created in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security [CARES] ACT,” Espinal said. “We need to ensure that the Paycheck Protection Program includes the millions of independent workers that drive our cities and country forward.” 

Espinal and the coalition of 25 independent film and media groups are advising to do Congress as follows, per Freelancer’s Union’s statement:

  1. Earmark funding specifically for self-employed and independent contractors, who are underbanked and underserved by government relief programs
  2. Set aside and guarantee 50% of loans for minority sole proprietors
  3. Require SBA lenders to process all applications, banning rules that require existing relationships with lending institutions
  4. Open the next round of funding first to independent workers and self-employed individuals
  5. Require SBA to publish data on the size of businesses receiving loans, including a breakout of loans awarded to self-employed and independent contractors

Freelancers make up a sizable portion of the United States’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP), contributing an estimated $1 trillion. There are currently 57 million freelancers in the country’s workforce.

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