New York -- Actors’ Equity Association – the national union for professional stage actors and stage managers working in live theatre – released the following statement in response to pandemic unemployment enrollment ending this weekend. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring the HEROES Act up for a vote. 

“Equity members want to go back to work, but the industry has been shut down since March because in most states, it is still not safe for mass gatherings,” said Kate Shindle, President of Actors’ Equity Association. “The artists who fuel our gigantic, nationwide economic engine have gone months without work, and the weekly $600 included in the CARES Act is all that is keeping our workers afloat as they stare down an uncertain future. How much longer will Senator McConnell wait to bring up the HEROES Act for a vote? The Senate must act.” 
Federal unemployment assistance in the form of $600 a week was included in the CARES Act in March. However, it is set to expire the week of July 25th to 31st.  

“PUC is the only thing keeping our heads above water now," said Jennifer, an Equity member speaking in testimony submitted to Congress on unemployment insurance. She and her husband are both unionized workers in Broadway theater, and with Broadway closed, the $600 a week has been indispensable: 

"Like many who work in the arts, we book jobs months, sometimes years in advance to manage our income and ensure we maintain health care. When the pandemic forced theaters to close, within 24 hours we both lost not only all our current income, but also close to $110,000 in income we were counting on for the rest of the year. There is no end in sight right now.” 

On Wednesday, Actors’ Equity Association members joined union members from across the country, flooding Senate offices to demand passage of the HEROES Act as the union’s latest action. In April, Equity called for a COBRA subsidy as unemployment began to skyrocket in the arts and entertainment sector. In May, the House passed the HEROES Act, which includes a 100% COBRA subsidy for displaced workers. The language is modeled after similar efforts during the 2008 financial crisis, when the federal government offered COBRA subsidies to workers who were laid off through no fault of their own. In May, Equity called for the U.S. Senate to pass a COBRA subsidy without delay. 

In addition to advocating for a COBRA subsidy, Equity has also made temporary COVID-19 remote work agreements available that include salaries and employer health contributions. And more than 4,800 Equity members and supporters have signed a petition calling for a COBRA subsidy. 

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  

July 24, 2020