COVID Financial Relief for U.S. Writers and Editors Who Freelance

The expanded aid available under the CARES Act

As you might have heard, the publishing industry is starting to see serious trouble from the pandemic. Way worse than I ever expected. This post by a Big 5 editor is a good explanation as to why things are getting so bad for us so fast.

Will it get better? When will it get better? I don’t think anyone knows.

Show your fellow publishing people love and support in the upcoming weeks.

I don’t have anything useful to say about that, though. Things are changing by the day and we don’t know what’s going to happen next. It sucks. That’s all I’ve got.

I… was going to try to write a normal column again today but it turns out I suck at writing normal columns with all this going on. So instead today will be a list of resources for those freelance writers and editors in the U.S. who are in financial trouble right now. Gig workers like us have traditionally had almost no social safety net here, but thanks to the CARES Act that’s changed. The problem is, there’s so little information on the new stuff, and the rollout is rushed and the process keeps getting updated. Things I read three days ago are being corrected to something else now. So I’m pulling together what I know about, with the big hefty disclaimer that I’m not an accountant or any kind of financial professional, and even the financial professionals I know say there’s very little information out yet and some of it’s contradictory.

Do your own research! But this is a starting point. (And sorry, international writers, this will only apply to the U.S.. But your country may have similar.)

Unemployment

For the first time, unemployment is being extended to gig workers, which may include people in our industry — or may not. I’ve heard at least one anecdotal report of someone getting denied because we can still “do” our jobs — i.e., we can sit in front of a computer and type — even if nobody’s paying us for it.

Here’s a guide for writers on how we may be able to fit into unemployment benefits.

However, my state — you apply through your state — says that the federal Department of Labor guidelines on unemployment for freelancers haven’t been issued yet, so they’re asking all freelancers to wait until those guidelines are available. When will that be? My state website is predicting mid- to late-April. So I don’t think we really know yet whether we’ll be able to get coverage under this and what the rules will be. If you’ve already applied and gotten denied, I suggest looking again once those Department of Labor guidelines come out.

SBA Loans

Freelance writers and editors usually file our taxes as sole proprietors, and as such we may be eligible for both new and existing SBA loans with a low interest rate and conditions for forgiveability (as in, chunks of the loan and possibly the whole loan would not have to be paid back at all). There are two types: Paycheck Protection Loans (which are new with the CARES Act) and EIDL — Economic Injury Disaster Loans (which have existed before this).

I’ve heard varying information on which exactly people in our industry can take advantage of, and I recommend doing a deep dive on the various government websites to get the latest information.

Here’s a breakdown of the new Paycheck Protection Loans from the Chamber of Commerce that I found helpful in starting to understand them. These are open to larger businesses now and will be open to applications from independent contractors and self-employed people starting April 10. You have to apply through a participating lender (e.g., a participating bank), not with the government.

EIDL are available now and you apply for them directly from the government. You can apply for ones related to COVID here.

And here’s a Vox article I’ve found useful in comparing them. It says that experts recommend people in need apply for both.

I’ve read that funds may run out quickly, so if you’re in a position where you need these loans, don’t wait to apply.

Arts Grants

I’ve seen arts grants starting to pop up offering COVID relief to different categories of creatives. I think Canada has offered something on the national level IIRC, but here in the U.S. what’s crossed my feed has been more state-level programs and writers’ organizations who are making grants available for relief.

Most of the grassroots-level artist relief programs I’ve seen are prioritizing people in significant need — i.e., you’re having trouble paying your bills now because of COVID — and are asking people who can cover their bills for at least this month to wait to apply. That may not be true across the board, though. Whatever your level of need, I recommend looking specifically for local grants within your state and grants from writer organizations — more aid is becoming available all the time.

That’s what I’ve got for now. Again, I am not any kind of financial professional, and this is not financial advice — but I hope it helps jump start your own research.

Stay safe, stay well.