Musicians and artists stranded financially waiting for Federal unemployment benefits

RHODE ISLAND (WLNE) – The Department of Labor and Training reported a huge spike in coronavirus-related unemployment claims on Tuesday.

The latest data reports 6,351 Rhode Islanders filed for unemployment on March 30th for COVID-19 reasons. The total number of COVID specific cases of unemployment is now 73,422.

However, one group of workers that is still unable to file for unemployment is the self-employed; which includes artists, musicians, and workers in the gig economy.

“Most of the money you make as a musician is via live performances,” said Joey DeFrancesco, the guitar player in the Providence-based band Downtown Boys.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, all of the band’s upcoming concerts have been canceled, rendering DeFrancesco out of work.

“We immediately had stuff canceled at universities in the area, at clubs, all over the place. Immediately shutdown without warning,” said DeFrancesco.

But he doesn’t qualify for state unemployment.

“Even if you tried to go through the Rhode Island system, they won’t take 1099 income, they won’t take anticipated future income, none of that,” said DeFrancesco.

He is now waiting for the Federal Government’s coronavirus relief package to go into effect. When it does, it will expand unemployment benefits to include the self-employed.

“It’s scary right now because tomorrow is the first of the month, rent is still due. All sorts of utility bills are still due,” said DeFrancesco. “People are hurting right now. It’s already been a couple weeks without income.”

According to officials at DLT, the department hopes to have the new unemployment application online by the end of the week.

“The Department is still waiting on guidance from the federal government about benefits for Rhode Island workers who are in the gig economy, are small business owners, self-employed, or are otherwise ineligible for regular unemployment benefits,” said Angelika Pellegrino, the Chief Public Affairs Officer at DLT.

In the meantime, workers are encouraged to sign-up here to receive an email that will notify them when the application becomes available.

Categories: Coronavirus, Politics, Providence, Rhode Island, Your Health