New York – Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement following the new unemployment report, which found that over 850,000 Americans have newly applied for unemployment in the last week, the highest it has been since September, and a jump of over 100,000 from the week prior. 

The new report comes following a U.S. Government Accountability Office study found that millions of unemployed Americans are not receiving the benefits to which they are entitled under the pandemic unemployment assistance program (PUA) that is used by many in the arts and entertainment industry. According to the study, many states have been paying PUA claims at the minimum benefit level instead of based on past earnings. 

“What’s tragic is not just the raw numbers, but more than four months after supplemental federal unemployment benefits expired, the Senate still hasn’t acted,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “As the virus continues to rage out of control, the arts and entertainment industry remains shut down and the workers are devastated. Congress must act.” 

The arts and entertainment industries are important economic drivers. The average nonprofit arts attendee spends another $31.41 per person, per show beyond the cost of admission, according to Americans for the Arts. That includes spending at restaurants, parking and even the babysitter. Nationally, this audience spending supports 2.3 million jobs, provides $46.6 billion in household income and generates $15.7 billion in total government revenue. 

To ensure the survival of union members who cannot safely work during the pandemic, Equity has been fighting for the passage of the HEROES Act since May, which passed the House and has yet to pass the Senate. The current version of the bill includes important provisions including: 

  • The resumption of pandemic unemployment insurance. 
  • $10 billion in emergency arts funding that would be made available via the “Save Our Stages” Act that also includes new, critical worker protections.   
  • An additional $135 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. 
  • New provisions to ensure that workers who earn a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent (e.g. 1099) employment income can fully access the unemployment assistance provided in the CARES Act.

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks  

December 10, 2020