Bill Boosts Weekly Unemployment Benefit by $600 and Includes New Triggers to File for Unemployment for Those Who Accepted Offers for Productions Postponed by COVID-19 Before Work Started 

New York – Mary McColl, Executive Director of Actors' Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement following regarding the CARES Act, which has now passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 

Among other provisions, the bill defines covered individuals as someone who “was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job,” and for workers where “the individual’s place of employment is closed.” This would help arts and entertainment workers who accepted an offer of employment but had their show postponed, along with those working who had productions shut down. 

The bill also includes important new access to unemployment benefits for gig and self-employed workers who would not otherwise qualify for unemployment. And it includes an additional $75 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. 

“We are grateful to all of the members of Congress who strove to include provisions to protect arts and entertainment workers,” said Mary McColl, Executive Director of Actors’ Equity Association. “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.” 

Background: Actors’ Equity first made the public case for emergency relief for arts and entertainment workers on March 11, when news reports emerged that Washington state and others would limit public gatherings. Equity quickly mobilized to partner with other arts and entertainment unions to make the case to key members of Congress for relief for arts and entertainment workers during this unprecedented crisis. Since then, Equity members have sent more than 27,000 letters to their members of Congress seeking relief. Equity has also partnered with the Coalition of Broadway Unions (COBUG) to seek relief for members in New York State, as well as launched the Curtain Up Fund with The Actors Fund to raise money for members in need. 

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks 

March 27, 2020