Do You Work in Hollywood? Here’s Where You Can Get (and Give) Financial Aid

Jeremy Fuster

With Hollywood brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic, there are thousands of entertainment industry workers left wondering how they will make ends meet, for however long the lockdown lasts. But over the past week, the entertainment industry’s unions have gathered resources to help workers find financial support.

Guild officials who spoke to TheWrap say that they do not have enough to help all workers in need, and that federal aid will be needed, not only for direct recovery checks but to also help ensure that entertainment workers qualify for government relief despite the unconventional nature of their employment. Still, they encourage those who suddenly find themselves without income because of the industry-wide shutdown to reach out to their respective guilds for support, and for those who can afford it to contribute in any way they can.

General aid groups are listed here below, followed by links for members of specific guilds:

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Spotify Artist Fundraising Pick

The music streaming service Spotify launched a fundraising tool for artists such that fans who enjoy their music can make direct contributions or donations to an artist. The new tool places a donation button on an artist profile page, and users can then make a donation using Cash App. Artists can raise funds directly, to support band members or crew, or they can select a verified charitable organization participating in the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief Project.

Cash App is also setting up a $1 million fund such that artists who secure at least one donation of any size will then receive an additional $100 contribution from Cash App.

“I’ve been using Cash App to raise money for a while but now that listeners can contribute through Spotify, it’s going to make a big difference,” the musician Tyrese Pope said in a statement about the new feature. “With touring now impossible, it’s never been harder for artists to make ends meet, so the extra contributions from Cash App and listeners alike will really help when we need it most.”

Those interested in setting up a profile can also learn more about best fundraising practices here.

Relief for Documentary Freelancers

Field of Vision and Topic Studios, the documentary- and journalism-driven studios behind films such as “Spotlight” and more recently “The Fight,” announced a relief fund of $250,000 set up specifically for freelance workers employed within the documentary field that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The $250,000 fund will be dispersed in grants up to $2,000 and will be granted in two separate periods, one in April and one in May, to make funding as immediate and accessible as possible.

The April fund will be open to applications from April 8 beginning at 9 a.m. ET until April 10 at 6 p.m. ET, or until they have received 750 applications, and will re-open again from May 6 at 9 a.m. ET until May 8 at 6 p.m. ET. For more information about the fund and how to apply, visit fieldofvision.org/relief-fund.

National Association of Theater Owners

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) created a $2.4 million fund in conjunction with the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation to provide financial assistance to movie theater workers impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The grant program is phase 1 of an eventual two-phase assistance program, The lobby group representing exhibitors said. The first phase will provide a stipend to any theater workers who meet specific criteria. The basic eligibility requirement for the grant: The person has to have worked in theatrical exhibition for a minimum of five years and laid off due to COVID-19.

Click here to apply for an emergency grant.

All Together Now Foundation

Universal Music Group announced a series of initiatives aimed at supporting out of work musicians and artists, including the formation of the All Together Now Foundation to support those in extraordinary need. Some of UMG’s brands and independent distribution services will also be offering interest-free royalty advances and fee waivers to get more money in the hands of artists directly while income made from touring and live performances is not possible.

American Federation of Musicians

Along with general assistance on unemployment insurance applications, the AFM is offering financial assistance to members diagnosed with COVID-19 through its Lester Petrillo Memorial Fund for Disabled Musicians while those enrolled in its Union Plus programs may be eligible for financial and mortgage assistance. Information on these programs can be found here.

If you are a member of AFM Local 47 in Los Angeles, you can also apply for relief checks of up to $150 through the AFM Emergency Relief Fund and the Music Fund of Los Angeles.

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#PayUpHollywood

Founded last year by “Chicago Fire” writer and WGA board member Liz Alper alongside Jamarah Hayner and Deirdre Mangan, the activist group was created to organize Hollywood workers around demands for better pay and safety in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Now, they are raising funds to send out small, short-term stipends to workers in need.

Together with WGA board member John August and “Chernobyl” creator Craig Mazin, hosts of the podcast “ScriptNotes,” #PayUpHollywood has launched a GoFundMe account that so far has raised over $320,000. The goal of the organization is to provide emergency checks of $450-900 to Hollywood workers who were working on projects that were either filming or set to go into production when the pandemic hit.

$450 checks will be available to those who qualify and who are currently receiving unemployment checks from the California Employee Development Department (EDD). $900 checks will be available to qualified applicants who cannot get checks from the EDD for various reasons, such as 1099 employee status. Information on EDD services, including aid to those infected or caring for someone infected with coronavirus can check their website for more information.

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Those who wish to apply can fill out the survey here. Aid will be provided based on the order of applications received and level of need. All applicants will need to provide documentation of employment lost, EDD application proof, and/or other information as listed in the survey. Those who wish to donate to the fund can do so on their GoFundMe page.

Actors Fund

Though the name suggests that it is only available to actors in the entertainment industry, the Actors Fund is providing emergency financial assistance and counseling to all entertainment workers. The group was included as part of a $2.5 million donation to IATSE and is now open to applications for emergency funds based on financial need. More information is available on their website. 

Motion Picture and Television Fund

When the crisis began, the Motion Picture and Television Fund announced that it would open its financial aid and case management services to the industry. Those in need in Hollywood, particularly industry retirees, can call their intake line at (323) 634-3888, or check their website for services offered.

“We have been at this place before during the 2007-2008 work stoppage and supported 630 industry members with financial assistance and case management in a challenging time,” President/CEO Bob Beitcher wrote last week. “Thanks to the generosity of our community, MPTF is still here for you today.”

Writers Guild of America

For WGA members, legal services are being offered by both WGA West and WGA East to help writers with guidance on their contracts and employment rights on any productions that were shut down. Any participants in the WGA health plan will also be able to have 100% of the cost of testing for the coronavirus covered by the guild’s health plan. These and other WGA services are outlined on the guild’s website.

SAG-AFTRA

The actors’ guild’s two major aid divisions, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and the SAG-AFTRA Motion Picture Players Welfare Fund (MPPWF), have created a coronavirus response fund to provide assistance to guild members in need of emergency financial aid due to the pandemic. The guild advises members that hundreds of applications have already been received and that applicants should wait at least two weeks before hearing a response. Applications are being received here.

The union has also created a comprehensive guide to the federal CARES Act and the unemployment benefits it provides that can be of use to members and non-members alike. That information can be found on the guild’s COVID-19 response page here.

Directors Guild of America

Like WGA, the DGA will cover all costs for those who need to be tested for coronavirus and will also cover remote treatment from doctors and psychologists as part of their health plan for the duration of the lockdown. Members can also apply for short-term, interest-free loans through the Directors’ Guild Foundation while those with less than $10,000 in liquid assets can apply for $1,000 grants.  Both foundation programs can be found here.

IATSE

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is extending its annuity hardship withdrawals to include members who need coronavirus financial aid from job losses. The guild has also started a mutual aid program that will provide grocery deliveries and check-in calls to members who are unable to leave their homes for essentials. More information is available on their website.

Teamsters Local 399

Hollywood’s chapter of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is offering online chapter meetings and webinars to help members file for unemployment benefits and to provide updates on any changes to health and pension plans, union activities, or general updates on the state of the industry. All of these services and more can be found here.

USBG Foundation

For decades, Hollywood workers have made ends meet by waiting tables and bartending. With bars closed and restaurants restricted to takeout, the United States Bartenders Guild’s National Charity Foundation has established a relief fund for service industry workers out of a job. Relief checks are available in amounts of $150-$500. For more information on eligibility and applications, check the foundation’s page here. 

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