COVID-19 stimulus package: Is there relief for freelancers?
The federal government is providing the biggest stimulus package in modern history. We’ll tell you where freelancers fit in.
A few months ago, the coronavirus seemed like a faraway problem. Something that China was dealing with, not anything that would severely threaten us here in the U.S. Then, as the disease encroached closer, wreaking havoc in Europe, we still didn’t think we’d suffer a similar fate. Now, the U.S. has more cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world. Our hotspots are struggling to care for all the patients filling up hospitals and treatment centers.
Aside from the medical effects, the coronavirus pandemic has upended our economic situation. The stock market has gone haywire. Businesses are following guidelines to close their doors indefinitely to promote social distancing and slow the disease’s advance. Though these drastic measures are for the greater good, they're leaving millions of Americans without reliable income for the foreseeable future.
To curb economic losses and ease the pain for businesses and workers, President Trump signed a $2 trillion dollar stimulus bill on March 27. Congress worked on the bill for a few weeks, hurrying to deliver aid to the American public during this crisis. Here are four key takeaways from the recently-passed bill:
- Checks to individuals:
This is the provision that’s got most people excited. Generally, most people will receive a check in the mail for $1,200 within the next three weeks. You could receive more depending on how much you make annually, your marital status, and whether you have children.
- Unemployment benefits:
Workers who have been laid off because of coronavirus filed a record number of unemployment claims in the last week. The Labor Department reported 3.28 million claims. The stimulus bill gives unemployed workers an extra $600 weekly for four months on top of their individual state benefits.
- Student loans:
The Department of Education is allowing federal student loan borrowers to stop payments without penalty or interest for 60 days. The stimulus bill increased this assistance by providing a six-month postponement period that will last until Sept. 30.
The stimulus bill provides certain protections for homeowners and renters who may be facing financial hardship after losing jobs due to the pandemic. Homeowners can ask for a 60-day hold on mortgage payments, and that hold can be extended four additional months if need be. Banks are forbidden from charging fees or interest on withheld payments and must either negotiate a repayment plan after the fact or extend loan terms. The bill also includes a 120-day ban on evictions and forbids fees and penalties to renters who are unable to pay.
So now that you have the general scoop on the bill, you’re probably wondering where freelancers fit into the picture and if you’ll be afforded any relief in light of the pandemic. Here’s what you need to know:
- Yes, freelancers will be included in the $1,200 check payouts.
If you are uncertain about whether or not you’ll receive a check, you can rest assured. You’re probably going to get a check in the next few weeks, unless you’re an illegal U.S. resident, a dependent on someone else’s tax return, or behind on your child support payments.
- Freelancers will be given unemployment protection.
When lawmakers were drafting the bill, they completely overlooked unemployment protections for freelancers.. Fortunately, they have rectified this shortcoming in the final version of the bill. Independent contractors, freelancers, VBOs and gig workers are eligible to receive half of the average unemployment benefit in their state plus an extra $600 per week.
Now, these provisions may not be enough to replace your regular weekly freelance income before the pandemic hit. But if you haven’t already, you should read our recent blog that gives you seven key actions to take to curb coronavirus-related profit loss. And check back for an upcoming blog we have in the works that’s going to teach you how to grow your business during this pandemic without being exploitative. It’s definitely a must-read during these difficult times so keep an eye out for that.
In the meantime, stay safe and don’t be discouraged. These hard times won’t last forever. Though we may never resume business as usual, we’ll be able to take what we’ve learned from this pandemic and build better businesses because of it.