No attorney-client relationship is established unless and until a signed retainer has been executed by the attorney and the client. The Coronavirus pandemic has already shed light on a lot of things about us: our penchant for panic-buying, how infrequently some people used to wash their hands (ice), our steadfast belief that toilet paper is a panacea for all ills, and just how much we all touch our damn faces.
But it's also thrown into sharp relief just how little of a safety net the people we depend on to make our lives better, more convenient, and more stylish really have. I'm talking about gig workers, the estimated 57 million Americans who walk our dogs, watch our kids, care for our elderly relatives, style our hair, deliver our takeout, wax our eyebrows, and perform myriad other services.
Some 36% of Americans work in the gig economy, and while these jobs have long been branded as side-hustles, the reality is that an increasing number of people depend on them to survive, says Erin Patton, an associate professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who focuses on the sociology of work. Nationwide, women make up about half of all gig workers, and do the lion's share of childcare work.
That's the case for Panel Duress, a full-time yoga and meditation teacher and Thai bodywork practitioner in Hoboken, New Jersey. On Saturday, March 14, the mayor of Duress' small city across the river from Manhattan ordered all yoga studios to close indefinitely, and her weekly private client canceled for the entire month out of concern for her 4-month-old daughter and elderly mom.
Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed a major bill aimed at providing free coronavirus testing, food assistance, and emergency paid sick leave, providing relief for the more than 40% of service workers who didn't have any paid sick leave in 2019. Sarah Nash is the owner of Pup Strut, a dog -walking service in Tacoma Park, Maryland.
Now she estimates she's already lost 80% of her clients as growing fears over the spread of germs also lead people to cancel. “Independent contractors must budget their lives in a very different way to compensate for lack of employee benefits.
Nor does it cover the expected costs these workers handle every day: the rent, food, childcare and other basics. That's why Bridget McClain Vetoed her dog walker and house cleaner already, even though neither will be coming to her Maple wood, New Jersey home in the near future.
She says she included a note for her walker about how much her dog misses her, and plans to pay her house cleaner a bonus when she comes back after weeks of the family of four being at home full-time. Nash says that before you go out and panic-buy at a big chain like Target, set aside the money you need to pay the people who empower you to function year-round.
“It can be frustrating to see people investing in superfluous items like toilet paper and alcohol, and then not be able to 'afford' the services they normally need.” Duress, who is working to set up virtual yoga lessons for her clients, hopes her students step up to practice what they preach, even during this uncertain time.
The Coronavirus pandemic is unfolding in real time, and guidelines change by the minute. We promise to give you the latest information at time of publishing, but please refer to the CDC and WHO for updates.
“I think it’s pretty universal in terms of the nanny discussion, that if you’re still getting paid, that you compensate them,” said Roger Ma, a certified financial planner in New York. But should the coronavirus crisis last for months, Ma has no idea how he will handle this financial conundrum.
Garrett Small wood, chief executive of Wag!, an on-demand dog service app, has been using Apple Pay more than ever before. Wag’s usage is down about 50% across the country, with dog boarding the hardest hit because of the lack of travel, Small wood said.
Jack Thompson, co-owner of LA House Cleaning, which coordinates the services of about 10 independent contractors, only has enough business right now to keep about three cleaners going. Because those workers have been paid as domestic employees with proper taxes taken out, they should be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Silvia, a woman who has been cleaning other people’s homes and apartments across Brooklyn for 15 years, said her jobs disappeared once New York was placed on PAUSE. “Their homes depend on their incomes,” Jamie San Andres, project coordinator for Make The Road NY, told PIX11 News.
Make The Road NY is an immigrant rights group particularly concerned about the close to a quarter million domestic workers in New York State. “I have had no business and no income for close to one month,” Anti Line back, a professional dog walker and babysitter, told PIX11 News.
“We’re giving her a few days a week, so she can pay her bills and her rent,” Brain Reinhardt, a mother of a 4-year-old, told PIX11 News. To help those without any money coming in, Make The Road NY is pushing for a rent freeze in these difficult times.
“A social safety net is a necessity for all of us, but many working people like domestic workers do not have the ability to save up for emergencies, take time off, or have access to affordable or reliable healthcare.” One major portion of the law is the Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act, which has extended unemployment benefits to many who have lost their jobs, had their hours reduced, or are unable to work due to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus (which I will abbreviate as C-19 in this article).
However, self-employed people, gig workers (like Uber and Lyft drivers, messengers, house cleaners, nannies, dog walkers, personal trainers, etc.) Workers who have been prevented from working due to C-19, even though not technically laid off or fired, but not being paid, are now eligible.
State laws requiring those on unemployment to actively seek work still apply, unless a worker is excused for one of the reasons listed above. Congress intended for workers suffering job or income loss due to C-19 to file for unemployment benefits through their state unemployment systems, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development in NJ and Department of Labor and Industry in PA.
Anticipate that it will take some time for the state agencies to sort out all the new avenues of eligibility and figure out the benefits for those previously ineligible. The Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act does not directly affect employers, except that certain employees or workers who may not have traditionally been considered employees (like real estate agents) may now be entitled to unemployment benefits.
Ordinarily, that would affect an employer’s unemployment insurance rating and, hence, the premiums that it would pay. The Act does not provide employers any relief, but Pennsylvania has addressed this issue by excluding from unemployment insurance ratings any employees terminated, furloughed or laid off due to C-19.
Bruce Satin is a business attorney and partner in the Lawrenceville, NJ law firm of Sherman, La kind. The foregoing is intended for general information purposes and is no substitute for specific legal advice.
Courtesy of Sarah Hence Pet owners are frantically returning home from their trips before borders close. New work-from-home policies mean daytime dog walks or drop-in visits are no longer needed.
Luckily for me, though, this was booked through a pet-sitting app, called Rover, which provides protection … or so I thought. After I amended the booking dates, I checked my account balance, only to find less money than I had expected.
Did no one on their board consider the thousands of gig economy workers, many of whom rely on pet-sitting for their entire income? I replied, explaining again and again my disappointment in their response, and offering suggestions of how they could handle the situation in a more balanced way.
Eventually, perhaps due to sheer persistence, I was rewarded my cancellation fee, directly from the app: “As a one-time courtesy, we deposited a $70 balance on your account to cover the penalty cost of this booking.” Courtesy of Sarah Hence Everyone has lost and is going to lose something in the coming days and weeks.
My experience is a microcosm of what all pet sitters, and gig economy workers, are experiencing. Like Rover and other pet sitting apps, most people on the other side of the financial equation aren't trying to be malicious, they just don't understand.
Gig economy workers may be eligible for unemployment in California, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington As part of the new $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, pet sitters and other gig economy workers will temporarily be eligible for unemployment benefits Sarah Hence is a pet sitter and freelance writer based in Michigan.
She has written for Lonely Planet, Odor's Travel, Road trippers Magazine, World Nomads, and more. She also manages a blog called Endless Distances about gluten free and celiac-safe travel.
Hence has a bachelor's degree from Kenyon College in English and Creative Writing, and also an M.Sc. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Plymouth in southwest England.