Email to Membership: Monday, March 16, 2020 (2:36 PM)

During the COVID-19 outbreak, we are posting every all-member email regarding the crisis to the site to ensure all 802 members see these communications. Please note, to avoid redundancy, we stripped the parts of these emails that remind members to check this very page for updates.

Email sent Monday, March 16, 2020, 2:36 PM

Subject Line- COVID-19 Update: Unemployment Benefits


We hope this email finds you and your family safe and healthy.  As your union, we are working to do everything in our power to advocate for economic relief for musicians and to provide resources for our members at this difficult time. Please find our most recent updates for the 802 community below.

Info on Applying for Unemployment Benefits


An update for musicians who are paid as independent contractors on a 1099 basis – the House has passed the Coronavirus Worker Relief Act which will expand the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program by making those who are impacted by the coronavirus outbreak eligible for benefits. Specifically, the bill will:

Provide access to disaster unemployment assistance for workers, including self-employed individuals and independent contractors, who are sick, quarantined, furloughed, laid off, or whose individual or family circumstances have changed as a result of COVID-19 or government containment efforts;

Waive state waiting periods and work search requirements to ensure that workers can get the assistance they need as soon as possible;

Set a minimum amount of assistance at parity with that of state unemployment compensation laws; and

Assist states in the administration of this unemployment assistance. This bill was endorsed by President Trump and received bipartisan support in the House. It should pass the Senate in short order. We will keep you keep you posted.


At this point many musicians are concerned with income replacement during the coronavirus crisis. Hopefully federal funding will be made available shortly and other sources for financial relief will be made available on both a national and local level. One source of income replacement for musicians may be funds available through the Local 802 Emergency Relief Fund. The Local 802 Executive Board is working now to determine exactly how ERF assistance earmarked for COVID-19 economic relief will be distributed. More will be posted on this shortly.

The best option for the moment is for W2 employees to immediately apply for unemployment compensation. Here is a little detail on the filing procedure in New York State. Individuals employed in other states will have to consult the individual law in the states that they work within. In New York, every employer you work for deducts from your wages premiums that are paid into the NYS unemployment insurance program.

You do not need to be employed by one employer during this period of time to meet the eligibility requirements. Wages are amalgamated from each of the employers you have worked for during the eligibility period.

There are three factors to determine whether you will be eligible for benefits:

1. You must have worked for at least 2 calendar quarters (six months) in a year. This needn’t be consecutive, but an employee must demonstrate that they worked during at least two three-month periods during the last year.

2. You must have been paid at least $2600.00 in one calendar quarter.

3. Your total payment over the year must be one and a half times the amount you earned in the highest paying quarter during the year. Thus if you made $2,600.00 during your highest paid quarter your total yearly income must be $3,900.00

If you have any doubts whether or not you qualify, you should file anyway. Your employers have already contributed on your behalf and the NYS Department of Labor will know your contribution levels. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Further, you must specify the reason for the loss of employment. Employee misconduct, etc. is not a proper basis to request UI. Loss of work due to COVID-19 is a legitimate ground and is a justifiable basis to apply for UI. Place that reason upon your UI application.

The filing should be made against the last employer for whom you worked but understand that each of your previous employers during the last calendar year have contributed proportionally on your behalf.

Normally there is a 7-day waiting period to commence receiving benefits; however due to COVID-19, New York State has waived that period. This means file NOW!

Finally, if you are in a situation where you are unsure whether there will be a payment from an employer at this time, we encourage you to file for unemployment benefits immediately. In that case when filing for unemployment benefits you may appropriately respond that there is no severance or other post-employment compensation. However, please note that if you do obtain some payment from an employer for this period then you may be required to re-pay your unemployment benefits for just those weeks.

Access this website to submit your application:

You must create an ID and password through the NYS DOL website, but it is a much better process than waiting on line, which we can all appreciate is not a wise idea.

Independent contractors and those who are paid in cash are not eligible for UI. If you fall into that category the ERF may be an option or contact the DOL and see if other relief is available (see above).

Finally, UI benefits last 26 weeks and are available up to $504.00 per week. Part time and seasonal employees can still qualify but will receive proportionally less than the maximum benefit.

To continue to qualify for UI, you must certify that you are ready, willing, and able to work and are actively looking for work – which of course every professional musician is.

We remain committed to serving our members and appreciate your understanding and flexibility during this very difficult time. We are here to help unite and support our community of union musicians. Please stay healthy and never hesitate to reach out for help.

In solidarity,

The Local 802 Executive Board