Extra unemployment benefits for gig workers in jeopardy without extension in next stimulus bill

Millions are on the brink of losing everything as COVID-19 closures continue and an unemployment benefit that's been saving gig workers is in danger.

"I am now homeless and as of four weeks ago, I thought I was living in my car," said Karen Castoldi during a Monday Zoom conference with others in similar situations and Burbank Congressman Adam Schiff.

Castoldi explained the impact of the COVID-19 shutdowns to her income and the importance of two storage units where she keeps clothes from her 30 years in the costume industry.

"I need the money to pay for my storage units... because probably in a couple months they'll be threatened to be auctioned off," she said. "And if I lose those two storage units, I've lost everything. I won't have a career anymore."

Rep. Schiff hosted the Zoom conference to hear from just some of the workers in the gig economy who receive an additional $100 to their unemployment benefits a week through a program called Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation. That additional $400 a month could run out unless an extension is put into Congress' next COVID-19 stimulus plan, something Schiff is pushing for in Washington.

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The $1.9 trillion package includes $1,400 direct checks to many Americans, an increase in the child tax credit and more money for vaccine distribution.



"There are lots and lots of families that are just hanging by a thread right now," said Rep. Schiff. "And a lot of people that have invested everything into their own small business, even if their small business is themselves, and all that hard work is at risk of being lost if they can't get through the next few months."

Janice Robertson, a singer and song writer in Florida who lost her entire income from COVID shutdowns, also shared her experience.

"Eight years ago I started substitute teaching because the income of music royalties and everything and shows and waiting to get the gig, not getting the gig, it just kept going up and down," said Robertson, "Now with COVID, I find myself driving Uber (and) substitute teaching just to survive this."

Kyle Kaplan is a touring musician who lost his income and now only receives a fraction of that in unemployment benefits.

"I'm used to making about, you know, a six-figure salary," said Kaplan. "That's what I was expecting to make obviously until this came, so to still have those bills and to still have the living expenses of somebody with that salary and then going to $41 a week, it's a bit of a learning curve."

If the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation is not extended, the benefit will end on March 14.

How being a gig worker could impact your taxes, finances in 2021
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Unemployment benefits are taxable, but tax withholding is typically voluntary - many people who lost jobs either didn't know their unemployment checks would be taxed, or they decid

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