The CARES ACT and You: Freelancers & Small Businesses

Brought to you by small business owner, Dave McGrath

Hello! For the majority of our industry, nearly all shoots have canceled or gone on hiatus. There are a few options available for financial relief and independent contractors are able to apply for unemployment. Three of the main programs that you should be aware of include:
      1. paid unemployment benefits,
      2. a one-time stimulus check of up to $1,200
      3. the new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses
Unemployment Benefits:

Self-employed freelancers and contractors are now eligible to apply for the same unemployment benefits previously only available to staff members who were laid off from companies. New Yorkers can APPLY HERE. Additional guidance provided for freelancers can be found HERE.

In talking to our freelancer friends, there have been a lot of lagging issues with the website, likely due to high user volume. To avoid this, you can try applying in the late evening/early morning (~12am – 4am) when the site traffic is much lower.

Stimulus Check:

The CARES Act provides a one-time stimulus check up to $1,200 for a single person with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of up to $75k per year. If you earn between $75k and $100k per year, you are still eligible, but for a lower amount. Those over $100k may not be eligible for the stimulus benefit. For married persons, the amount doubles to up to $2,400 per couple. Regardless of filing status, if you have any children under the age of 17 that live in your household for more than half the time, there is an additional stimulus of $500 per child. See an FAQ on dependent child benefits here.

It seems that you will automatically receive this payment if you filed your 2019 taxes with updated bank/direct deposit details. The federal government has stated that payments should start going out in mid-April. You can find more information here.

Paycheck Protection Program:
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has multiple loan options available for small businesses with less than 500 employees, and the PPP also includes loan forgiveness for companies meeting certain criteria over the first couple months post receiving the loan. The most important criteria is that you keep your staff on payroll throughout the forgiveness period. There are a lot of details surrounding this program, but I found this WEBINAR helpful in my research. They start explaining the PPP around 10:40 and also go through a sample calculation, which gives a better idea of how the loan forgiveness will work.

The PPP is complicated and you should definitely research it yourself and/or talk to your accountant if you have any questions. The basics as I understand them are as follows: (1) You apply with your bank for a PPP loan. The loan amount will be 2.5x your average monthly payroll over the last year. You are meant to use this money towards payroll and other overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and more during the following 8 weeks. (2) You are able to apply for loan forgiveness after the 8 week period. The general idea is that you need to employ as many people during this period as you were during your 12-month calculation. (3) If you meet these criteria, you may be able to have some or even all of the loan forgiven.

A lot of the larger banks just started the application process on Friday, April 3rd, and it seems like there will be a learning curve for everyone involved. If this is something that makes sense for your business, then it is probably smart to get in touch with your business banker ASAP to start the process.

As a disclaimer, everything posted here is what I have learned from talking to our accountant, business banker, and freelancer friends. I highly suggest you do your own due diligence before making any major decisions in regards to these benefits.
Let us know if this has been help and if you have any updated details we may have missed. Thanks!