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Legislation to Fix Unemployment Benefits for “Mixed Earners” Introduced

AFM applauded the introduction of legislation that would fix issues that musicians and other entertainment workers have had with unemployment benefits. The Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act introduced by U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Judy Chu (D-CA) would help ensure that workers who earn a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent (e.g. 1099) income are able to fully access the unemployment assistance provided in the CARES Act.

“Most musicians are facing unprecedented job loss with no end in sight. It is vital that musicians and others who have both W-2 and 1099 income are able to receive full unemployment benefits. We thank Representatives Schiff and Chu for listening to musicians and introducing this critical legislation,” said AFM International President Ray Hair.

The CARES Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Insurance (PUA) program to provide unemployment benefits to freelancers, contractors and other gig workers who would not normally qualify for traditional unemployment benefits. Under existing rules, musicians and other entertainment workers who earn a combination of traditional (W-2) and self-employment (e.g. 1099) income are automatically excluded from the PUA program. This means that workers who earn exclusively W-2 or exclusively 1099 income receive benefits based on their total earnings, but mixed earners only receive benefits based on their W-2 employment. This caused many entertainment workers to have their income significantly under-measured and resulted in disproportionately low benefits.

The Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act will allow people who earn a combination of traditional (W-2) and independent (e.g. 1099) income to opt into receiving PUA benefits in lieu of regular state unemployment compensation. Because PUA benefits are calculated using states’ existing formulas, but use a worker’s full earnings record, they are guaranteed to be at least as much as regular state benefits and will take into account mixed earner’s true earnings history from both traditional and self-employment.

In May, AFM sent a letter with other entertainment unions and music industry organizations to highlight the ways that the CARES Act had fallen short in assisting musicians and other entertainment workers.