One-third of the city’s workforce is freelancers.
Many had already been juggling gigs and forgoing health care to make ends meet.
Now, with work in the arts, entertainment and other fields suddenly gone, the despair is mounting.
“How I’m going to pay my bills, how I’m going to help my parents, how I am going to sustain myself without getting into debt, how my friends and my colleagues are going to sustain themselves,” said Alex Silva, a freelance props designer, listing her worries. “Everyone’s so scared and I’m doing everything I can to keep myself busy, because I don’t want to spiral.”
Asha Boston, a freelance filmmaker and founder of Dinner Table Doc non-profit, added: “And not knowing how long. It would feel less stressful if we had an idea of how long this would take and when we’d be able to work again.”
Rafael Espinal left the City Council two months ago to head the national Freelancers Union.
He’s taking the reins just as independent workers face what he calls their worst economic crisis in modern history.
“A lot of my members are in pretty dire straits,” said Espinal, president and executive director of the Freelancers Union. “I’ve spent my past few weeks really reaching out to the all the elected officials that I know that play an important role in furthering workers’ agendas, whether it be here in the state or in Washington.”
Freelancers are poised to get unemployment insurance and see other relief under a just-passed federal rescue package, but it wouldn’t necessarily make up for lost income.
The Freelancers Union is launching a fund to help where it can, giving qualifying recipients up to $1,000.
It’s calling for donors, because there will no shortage of applicants.
“It’s a really difficult time for all artists,” said Christina Bouey, a violin soloist with the Ulysses Quartet. “They won’t be able to pay rent or eat or anything like that. A lot of them live paycheck to paycheck, when they’re just trying to bring happiness to the world.”