Freelancers are not usually covered by employer and government benefits because they are not affiliated with any company as a permanent employee. If they are to have government benefits, they have to apply for these benefits voluntarily. The same situation can be said for self-employed workers who have their own mini business or company.
However, with the coronavirus affecting every industry imaginable, even these groups need assistance during this time. But, how can they get assistance from the government? Fortunately, governments around the globe are recognising the need of these industries and have launched several initiatives to help them.
Here are some of the programs launched by governments to help freelancers and self-employed workers during this pandemic:
United States of America
Both the federal and state governments in the United States have launched several efforts to help the gig industry and self-employed citizens get by during the pandemic.
Here are some of the assistance they are offering to these industries:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
This March 27 stimulus bill from the federal government includes a provision to provide unemployment insurance for qualified independent workers and get an extra $600 per week from the government.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans
The Small Business Administration is offering these loans which will give qualified freelance and self-employed businesses struggling because of COVID-19 up to $10,000 economic relief.
- Paycheck Protection Program
Under this program, self-employed workers and freelance contractors can get loans that will cover up to eight weeks of their payroll or business fees. It is also fully forgivable if it will be used for certain expenses listed by the SBA.
- Rescheduled Tax filing
The government has changed the federal deadline for tax filing to July 15. States can choose when they wish to issue their tax deadlines so it is important that freelancers and self-employed workers check immediately so they can sort out their taxes accordingly.
- Paid sick and family leave
Any self-employed individuals who are unable to work because of illness or taking care of their sick relatives can file for paid leave as tax credit when they file their 2020 federal income tax.
The UK government announced their freelancer/self-employed financial support program on March 26, 2020.
Under the program, self-employed workers and freelancers who lost jobs during the pandemic can apply for financial grants to replace the amount they lost. Grants can amount to £2,500 per month for the next three months.
To qualify for this grant, they must earn less than £50,000 in 2018-2019 or it is the average income between 2016 to 2019.
Qualified freelancers and self-employed workers must also earn most of their income from their gigs to qualify.
Payments will begin starting June 2020.
Germany announced their corona aid package on March 16 which lists down all the aid they will provide to workers and employers to prevent the impact of COVID-19 from affecting them completely.
For freelancers and self-employed workers, the financial aid program will do the following:
- They will be qualified to apply for short-term allowance (Kurzarbeitergelder) to the Federal Labour Office.
- If freelancers need fiscal support, they can reach out to tax officers to get assistance.
- For liquidity assistance because of COVID-19, applicants can send their forms to the financial partners of the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau.
German states have also released their individual local and regional aid measures which freelancers and self-employed workers can check out depending on their location.
For Italian and Italian-based freelancers, the Italian government announced the “bonus 600” program under the “Cura Italia” financial aid package on March 17.
The program is a 25 billion euro aid pack that will support all the workers in the country and stabilise the Italian economy.
Under the “bonus 600” policy, freelancers, self-employed workers, entertainment workers, tourism seasonal workers and agricultural workers can apply for payment.
To qualify, they must have their partita IVA or Italian VAT number and show that they lost two-thirds or more in their income because of the pandemic.
The Canadian government has announced several measures to assist the freelancers and self-employed workers and they include the following:
- Canada Emergency Response Benefit – Under the CERB, citizens can avail up to $2,000 per month for the next 4 months as taxable benefit if they were affected by the virus, assisted those who have the virus and if they are ineligible for Employment Insurance
- Income tax declaration is moved to June 1 but if you are under the Canada Child Benefit program or GST program, you need to file immediately to receive your aid. Installments for the 2020 taxes are also deferred until August 31st without any interests or penalties.
- If you are from low-income households and under the CCB or GST program, you will get an extra payment: $300 per child if you are under CCB while it is $400 for singles and $600 for couples who are under the GST.
- Self-employed people can pay their GST/HST until June 30. Deferral will apply for GST/HST from February to April 2020 (monthly filers), January 1 to March 31 (quarterly filers) and 2019 to before June 30 payments (annual filers). If you defer on your payments, you will need to pay more in the second half of the current year.
- For those under Canada Student Loans, they will receive a six-month interest-free repayment moratorium without having to apply for repayment pause.
- Provincial governments also have their respective programs for freelancers which they can check out on their official website.
- For those who are unable to make mortgage payments or debt payments, banks can offer alternatives on how it can be paid during this pandemic. Rent will also be flexible and can be discussed with your landlords if you still haven’t received government assistance.
- Food banks and other charities are also offering support for anyone who needs help during this pandemic.
Malaysia’s assistance to freelancers and self-employed workers is listed under the Pakej Rangsangan Ekonomi Prihatin Rakyat (PRIHATIN) package. Some of the benefits they can avail under the stimulus pack include:
- For those working as taxi drivers, they can receive a RM600 one-off payment. Meanwhile, e-hailing drivers can receive a RM500 one-off payment.
- Self-employed workers under the Skim Kredit Mikro program can get loans with low interest. Loans can be up to RM75,000 in comparison to the original RM50,000 loan limit.
- PTPTN Loan repayments are delayed for all borrowers within the next 6 months. The initiative began on April 1 and will remain until September 30,2020.
- Free internet will be provided to all individuals until the end of the MCO.
In Singapore, the government is offering an extensive financial program for all Singaporeans and PR holders. For self-employed persons, they can receive three payments if they qualify under the Self-Employed Personal Income Relief Scheme.
To qualify under the SIRS, you must be 37 years old and up in 2020 and receiving Workfare Income Supplement payments.
If you are not receiving payments, you must be working as a self-employed worker on or before March 25, 2020, declared you are self-employed to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore or to the CPF Board, earning no more than $2,300 per month to qualify.
If you are married, your partner’s assessable income is not more than $70,000 and your annual value won’t reach up to $21,000.
If you missed one or more criteria, you can appeal to the NTUC through their website starting April 27, 2020. You will need to submit the proper supporting documents to support your appeal.
Payouts will be done automatically starting May 27 and eligible workers will receive a letter or a text message from the CPF Board. The following payments will be given during the end of May, July and October.
In this pandemic, everyone needs a helping hand to get through the impacts the virus has caused to our way of life. Without help, it is possible that these industries won’t survive after the pandemic is over and getting back to their feet is difficult.
Thanks to these governments, freelancers and self-employed workers don’t have to worry so much because they too can get the help they need to get by while this pandemic is still ongoing.
If you need any assistance to ride through this period, please do approach your government to find out how they can help you.
For more Covid-related articles, check these out:
What to do If You Lost Your Job During Covid-19 Recession?
* New Updates * Lockdown from Covid-19: From an Expat’s Point of View
Covid-19 Outbreak: What are Companies doing right by their employees
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