ASCAP Calls on States to Fast-Track Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation Program to Benefit Music Creators

January 26, 2021

In the latest federal aid package, Congress added $100/week for the nearly one million “Mixed Earners'' -- many of them music creators -- who were unintentionally left behind by the CARES Act, receiving artificially low weekly unemployment benefits. Regularly working from project to project -- often as both employees receiving W-2 wages and independent contractors receiving 1099 income for performances, royalties and other services -- many music creators found themselves unable to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance after technically qualifying for traditional state aid. Designed with music creators in mind, the new Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation benefit was created to provide financial assistance to these mixed income workers.

 

To ensure this aid reaches its music creator members swiftly, ASCAP, alongside our creative partners, joined other leading entertainment industry organizations in a series of letters urging states to prioritize the newly established Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program.

 

Learn more about the MEUC eligibility at MixedEarners.org, and read the final template letter to state lawmakers below.

 

*****

 

Dear ______,

 

The undersigned organizations, representing individuals across the creative workforce, are incredibly grateful that Congress has established the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program.  Our respective memberships represent many of the approximately one million American “Mixed Earners” who were left behind by the CARES Act. The establishment of the MEUC program promises to offer much-needed aid to this legion of workers who remain out of work through no fault of their own.

 

As STATE implements the new federal guidance to establish the MEUC program, we stand ready to assist your department to ensure that the program works as intended. We request that implementing the MEUC program be a top priority. In order to help prioritize implementation of the program, this letter outlines several key areas of importance that should be considered and adopted in order to ensure that the MEUC program is effective.

 

First, the department should notify potential claimants as quickly as possible about this new supplemental benefit. Since the MEUC program requires a claimant to apply for the supplemental benefit, STATE should send notices in short order to claimants to ensure that they are both aware of the program and are properly informed of required documentation and other important details. Even interim information, disseminated prior to full implementation, will be productive in educating many Mixed Earner individuals about the new program. The Department of Labor’s recent Unemployment Insurance Program Letter (UIPL 9-21) contained sample language (Notice #6: MEUC7) that can be used as a template to send out notices to claimants. In addition, Addendum 1 attached in this letter offers a suggested template for your consideration.

 

Our organizations will also work to effectively inform and educate our respective memberships about the MEUC program through email communication, social media outreach, and via the MixedIncome.org website. Additionally, we will reach out to organizations beyond the creative arts fields that represent Mixed Earner workers such as teachers, realtors, restaurant and retail workers, and tourism workers. And, as necessary, we welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss ways to best coordinate on informing the public about the MEUC program.

 

Second, we encourage you to update systems and application processes in order to ensure that the supplement is disbursed expeditiously. For nearly 10 months, Mixed Earners have received artificially low weekly benefits—up to 90% less in some cases. Since the initial round of FPUC payments expired in July 2020, negligible W-2 wages have robbed many Mixed Earners of the ability to pay rent and put food on their table. Mixed Earners have been the most penalized of the unemployed population; delays in fully implementing the MEUC program will further devastate this group of workers. With the U.S. Treasury providing 100% of funds, including administrative expenses, for the program, there should be ample incentive for STATE to update systems and begin processing MEUC applications without unnecessary delay.

 

Relatedly, we encourage STATE to immediately begin processing MEUC applications and making eligibility determinations, while granting a reasonable amount of time for an individual to submit documentation substantiating their self-employment income. Granting immediate eligibility, while claimants get their documentation in order, will ensure Mixed Earner individuals are not further penalized. In the event that tax returns are unavailable to substantiate self-employment income, Addendum 2 provides a non-exhaustive list of documents that should be considered to process MEUC applications. 

 

Lastly, take note that benefit payments under MEUC are retroactive to December 26, 2020 and that the benefit is paid automatically once eligibility is determined for the length of the claimants’ unemployment continuing through March 13, 2021.  Thus, if a claimant, who is already receiving traditional unemployment compensation, is determined to be eligible for the MEUC supplement on February 7, 2021, he/she will receive retroactive MEUC supplements for the preceding six weeks. Mixed Earner individuals are entitled to receive the full provision of benefits established by Section 261 of the Continued Assistance Act.

 

This coalition is petitioning Congress to extend the MEUC benefit beyond its present end date. If we are successful, MEUC will provide valuable aid to your residents hopefully throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis.

 

We understand that these unprecedented times create many different, unanticipated challenges, but the need for Mixed Earners remains unprecedented. We appreciate your prompt attention to implementing the MEUC program, and pledge to be a partner in ensuring that the program works as Congress intended.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Actors Equity

Artist Rights Alliance

ASCAP

Authors Guild

BMI

CERF+

Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO

Dramatists Guild of America

Freelancers Union

Future of Music Coalition

Music Artists Coalition (MAC)

Music Workers Alliance

National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA)

Nashville Songwriters Association International

Recording Academy

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)

SAG-AFTRA

Songwriters of North America (SONA)

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts Network:

·  Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston

·  Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville

·  California Lawyers for the Arts

·  The Ella Project (Louisiana)

·  Kansas City Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts

·  Lawyers for the Creative Arts Illinois

·  Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

·  Minnesota Lawyers for the Arts