Actors’ Equity praised the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act Wednesday, citing several measures that should help Broadway’s workforce.
The $1.9 trillion relief plan includes COBRA subsidies — a provision the Broadway industry has heavily championed — an extension of unemployment benefits and the additional $300 per week and $1400 stimulus checks that begin phasing out at annual incomes of $75,000, with an $80,000 cap. The bill awaits signature from President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law Friday.
The COBRA subsidies are of particular importance to the Broadway workforce, as many workers have been kicked off or in danger of losing their health insurance coverage during the Broadway shutdown. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, workers can receive subsidies through Sept. 30, 2021 that will cover 100% of their premiums on their union health plan.
The bill also contains additional healthcare subsidies for members who are ineligible for COBRA.
Additionally, the bill continues Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, meant for gig workers, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, for those who have exhausted their claims. A newly added provision waives taxes on the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits for individuals who made less than $150,000 in 2020.
“This pandemic has been especially brutal on arts workers; most of us have been unemployed for a year now, and are desperate to get back to work the moment it’s safe. In the meantime, the need for relief is real and urgent,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity. “This passage shows us that it’s possible to provide meaningful assistance to American workers during a crisis, and that we have to continue raising our voices.”