Gig workers are now able to claim unemployment and other resources for artists, freelancers and event pros during the coronavirus


Photo: Manny Pantoja on Unsplash

Note: This article was updated 3/30/20.

Independent contractors and those who are self-employed have never been able to file for unemployment—until now. As part of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, Democrats thankfully held out and negotiated relief for “gig workers” and the self-employed, who are eligible for unemployment benefits, just like normal employees who are out of work because of the pandemic.

The application process begins at the state level; here in New York, The New York Department of Labor has a checklist of those who qualify, including independent contractors. It also includes instructions on the day of the week to apply based on your last name. By 9:30am on Monday morning, the site was unavailable, presumably because of the number of people trying to access it.

Still, the fact that independent contractors are part of the deal is a huge, unprecedented win for the estimated 43% of the U.S. workforce that has been denied these rights until now.

Here are some other employment resources for independent contractors:

Remote work and assistance during the pandemic

Freelancers Union has just created a Freelancers Relief Fund that will provide up to $1000 to freelancers experiencing financial hardship because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Launched with a few partners, they encourange anyone with the means to donate to it.

Playwrights Horizons has a terrific roundup of remote work and grant opportunities. Their CFA will also host a Zoom conference on Thursday, March 27 to answer financial questions for freelancers and artists.

Forbes has a list of ways to apply for emergency funds such as the Covid-19 Freelance Aritst Resources site, the same one The Freelancers Union is working from.

Virtual Event Toolkits

Two crowdsourced mutual aid resource lists offer advice on how to both support your local community and ways to organize events virutually. Skim the contents to skip to the section that applies to you in this Coronavirus Resource Kit and in this local NYC-DSA  Covid-19 Mutual Aid and Organizing Response hub from a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.


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