Since we still have not managed to bring our unemployment numbers under control, the Congress is debating yet another stimulus package while waiting for the country to reopen. Unlike the first big round of incentive spending, there is a possibility that our friends in the swamp might actually fix a problem that was overlooked when they arranged for an initial installment of federal enrichment for unemployment benefits.
A few months ago, Politico reported a shortfall in the Epidemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, one that specifically affected the music industry, but also affected other works as well. The Recording Industry Association of America, along with a host of other companies and related trade groups, sent a letter to senior congressmen stating that the PUA program “has overlooked mixed-income workers … in almost all cases that we in every state lets see.” , A minimum amount of W-2 income disqualifies a self-employed person for PUA and significantly reduces the amount of assistance they receive. The PUA should be updated to identify these various income streams and allow individuals to show their mixed sources of revenue for a full accounting of their annual income. “
Meanwhile, the music industry this morning sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shumer asking a range of questions, including changes to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program Are also included. Many musicians and others in the industry “work from project to project and from gig to gig, not only in many jobs but in various capacities,” receiving a combination of wages and income as independent contractors, the Recording Industry Association of The US, the National Independent Venue Association and dozens of other companies and trade groups write in the letter.
In other words, if your primary working style is mostly part-time and you associate your income with side gigs, contract work, or self-employment (think Uber drivers or delivery app workers) your total income may fail on record. Qualifies you for increased federal unemployment benefits. This leaves workers out in the cold when they actually earned enough money to be eligible for benefits.
The music industry — particularly the country music industry — is emphasizing this change because many people working in it work part-time, W2, but contract their income when they are not available in the music industry Let’s add to the work. Why does this specific industry matter in all lobbying? Because Senator Marsha Blackburn, who represents Tennessee to her vast country music industry – is one of the senators pushing for this fix:
It is not the case that there is a massive change in the existing PUA program. Congress only needs to allow mixed-income people to choose the portion of their income (independent contractor side or employee side) that they wish to list when applying for unemployment benefits.
Unfortunately for him, more than two months after the question arose, this problem is still not resolved. But it seems that in the coming weeks, the Congress will try to avoid another round of COVID incentive funding. Assuming that there are several shovels of debt worth another trillion dollars at the bonfire of our federal finances, this might be a good provision to include.
This would not be a bad move for Mitch McConnell in terms of political optics. Democrats are engaged in avoiding how the GOP is only helping their fat cat, big business friends on Wall Street, and leaving “little people” to eat cake. This specific “fix” for PUAs would be directed to a comparatively small number of people with hybrid incomes who are more vulnerable to the effects of the shutdown. And if the Democrats dared to oppose it simply because the idea was brought up by a Republican (don’t cast them in the past), McConnell and Blackburn could eat their lunch at it.
I am not advocating spending here on a much larger scale, but it is almost inevitable at this point. And if we are going to do it anyway, we can help some people, especially by government decisions to close their income stream and damage some political points in the process.