I am a creative entrepreneur in your district, who sells goods on Etsy. In the face of the rapid spread of COVID-19, I am very concerned that my business may not survive this pandemic or the resulting economic downturn. Lawmakers are rightly focused on sending immediate aid and support to our most vulnerable businesses and workers. Yet one vulnerable group – microbusinesses and the self-employed – are notably absent from the conversation.
I am one of the 2.7 million creative entrepreneurs that Etsy represents, 83% of whom are women and nearly all of whom run one person businesses out of their homes. As sole proprietors, we don’t qualify for many social safety net programs, including unemployment insurance, disability insurance, or paid leave. Neither will we benefit from much of the important relief the U.S. government has already promised to workers and small business owners. Yet, we are among the most vulnerable to this current crisis.
To meet this urgent need, I am writing to ask that you to ensure microbusinesses and the self-employed are a key part of any economic recovery package through the following means.
Direct assistance – In addition to the direct payments currently under discussion for all Americans, Congress should create a supplementary direct assistance program for the self-employed and microbusinesses to help cover the cost of lost business, paid sick leave, individual health care costs, and fixed expenses.
Unemployment protection: The self-employed are not eligible for unemployment protection. The federal government should immediately fund an unemployment protection fund for the self-employed and gig workers, which would allow them to draw down benefits in the event of declining income due to decreased demand for their goods or services.
Business-critical services: Etsy sellers depend on critical e-commerce infrastructure, including financial services, shipping, and internet connectivity. The federal government should ensure that these essential services remain fully operational, even as the public and private sectors take greater measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Tax and debt deferral: In addition to deferring April 15th tax returns, Congress should defer an additional two quarterly tax payment deadlines, which place a significant financial burden on the self employed. We also urge the government to negotiate deferred mortgage and credit card payments for self-employed microbusinesses, who often operate out of their homes and use personal credit cards to fund their business.
Earned income tax credit (EITC): The Earned Income Tax Credit is an important source of income protection, and because it is not administered through payroll, it already works equally well for gig workers and those in a more traditional employment relationship. Congress should expand EITC by increasing the income threshold, including younger and childless workers, and eliminating the marriage penalty. Lawmakers should also allow it to be calculated and administered on a quarterly basis, which would better support individuals struggling to manage short-term income volatility.
Disaster relief: Many of the government’s disaster relief programs simply do not work for the self-employed. Congress should appropriate funds for a Self-Employment Assistance Fund within the EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance and SBA’s Disaster Relief Loan programs, and require these agencies to quickly issue guidance enabling the self-employed to access these programs.
Taken together, these reforms would dramatically ease the burdens faced by Etsy sellers like me, as well as the millions of independent contractors, self-employed individuals, and microbusinesses who are driving the broader gig economy.”