What We Learned This Week: Congress Should Do 5 Things to Help Freelancers

By David Schonauer   Friday May 22, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the economy.

And freelancers have been hit especially hard.

This week we noted that more than a dozen media and arts organizations, including the National Press Photographers Association, have signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to express concern for millions of freelancers and self-employed workers experiencing unprecedented loss.

“The numbers are shocking,” notes the letter. “Freelancers Union, which represents over half a million members, found in a member survey released on May 1 that more than 86% of freelancers had already lost thousands of dollars in wages, and that 84% of freelancers who had applied for government relief had not received any money.”

A month has passed since Congress passed the CARES Act, which created an inclusive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to serve freelancers and self-employed people as well as employees. “Unfortunately,” notes the letter to Pelosi, “key elements of the program have resulted in freelancers not qualifying for sufficient assistance, and in some cases being shut out from relief entirely.”

For instance, freelancer applicants who reported earning even a small amount of W-2 income were deemed ineligible for PUA and traditional unemployment insurance. “[T]he systems have not adequately taken into consideration individuals who earn a mix of 1099 and W-2 income, a common scenario for many freelancers,” adds the letter.

What should Congress do now? The letter from the media and arts organizations makes five important suggestions that should be acted on quickly:

Extend a monthly stimulus payment of $2,000 for up to 12 months to all Americans regardless of citizenship.This idea has been proposed in the so-called Monthly Stimulus Support Act.

Establish rent and mortgage forgiveness. This idea has been proposed in the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act.

Require states to include income for freelancers in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance eligibility determinations.

Expand PUA to include all workers who’ve been impacted by Covid-19.

And, finally, extend PUA indefinitely, until the coronavirus crisis ends.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:

1. Kevin Steele's "Life On Pause"

Over the past few weeks PPD has been hearing from readers telling us about personal projects they've been working on during the Covid-19 pandemic. Among the projects, we noted on Wednesday, is Los Angeles-based photographer Kevin Steele's series "Life On Pause." With his business shut down, Steele set out to photograph people in different neighborhoods safely, through their front doors. "This is an unprecedented time. We are all apart from each other but sharing a common experience," Steele told us.

2. How Mous Lamrabat Subverts Stereotypes

Photographer Mous Lamrabat masterfully splices together symbols from his Moroccan heritage and Muslim faith with Western brands and pop culture in his bright and joyful portraits, creating imagery that, declared CNN, is both irresistible and slyly thought-provoking. "Emotion penetrates the soul, so I find that humor and fun are the best tools to use,” said Lamrabrat, who is based in Belgium. "I can't change people's prejudices; I can only show them that there is so much more to us than they might think.”

3. Capturing Sweden's Dance Balls

Photographer Martin Bogren's new book August Song takes us into the world of dance balls that happen in the woods and forests of Skane, Sweden. The balls started in the 1950s as an event where people gather for a week to drink, dance and celebrate life, noted The Washington Post. Like all his work, the photographs in August Song conjure up “something otherworldly; looking at his photographs takes you into his internal universe. It is a place that can be comforting, disconcerting and sublime,” added The Post.

4. Motherhood in the Time of Pandemic

“There was time when the period right after a woman gave birth was known as her confinement. The phrase has fallen out of usage, but in the photographs of Lisa Sorgini, we see that vestiges of the condition remain.” So noted Time magazine, which spotlighted work created by the Australian photographer during the Covid-19 pandemic. Sognini’s series “Behind Glass” comprises portraits of mothers shot through the windows of their homes on the Australian coast about 500 miles north of Sydney. The windows act as a framing device and barriers, added Time.

5.  Dina Litovsky’s "Amish Travelers" Series

New York-based photographer Dina Litovsky’s series “Amish Travelers” was recently named winner of the Nannen Prize, Germany’s prestigious award for documentary photography. The work, notes Litovsky, focuses on Amish and Mennonite vacationers from all over the United States who each winter travel to Pinecraft, a small community in Sarasota, Florida. Jokingly dubbed “Amish Las Vegas,” it's a place where the use of cell phones, cameras and bicycles are not prohibited.
At top: From Dina Litovsky


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