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Warner Pushes for Getting COVID-19 Money to Gig Workers

Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is worried that there is still confusion and potential delay in getting unemployment checks to gig workers, the self-employed and independent contractors, like many working in the entertainment business, that he wants to make sure don't get left out. 

Unions representing performers in TV, movies, theater, concerts and other venues had sought inclusion of their members in the aid package, and Congress delivered. 

Related: Performers Groups Seek Piece of Massive Coronavirus Aid Package 

He said Friday (April 3) that a week after the $2 trillion COVID-19 aid bill was signed and despite new guidance from the Department of Labor, states are still struggling to get the money to those workers and it could be weeks before some can access the aid Congress intended and they desperately need. 

“The CARES Act directs states to stand up a new program, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program, to disburse benefits to workers who would normally not be eligible for unemployment assistance, such as gig workers or freelancers," he wrote to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia. "Unfortunately, we are already hearing reports from unemployment officials from around the country that it will likely take weeks to stand up a new program and disburse benefits to these newly eligible workers." 

Warner wants the department to streamline the PUA process by removing "burdensome regulatory barriers"--a phrase more associated with Republicans in normal times--limiting worker participation, "require states to accept electronic documentation" and "allow them flexibility to make determinations on eligibility for the program on a case-by-case basis." 

He would also like to see "innovative technologies to implement the program"--Warner is a former tech executive--and allow states to disburse the weekly benefits.