This page will be updated regularly with news and resources for WGAE members.
Last updated: 10/01/2021 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Table of Contents
- Guild News & Updates
- Healthcare Information & Legal Support
- Additional Financial Support
- Teleworking Tools
- Additional Resources
Guild News & Updates
The Guild has been working tirelessly to address the very real concerns members have about the effect COVID-19 is having on their workplaces.
Our Business Agents and Field Representatives have been in close contact with employers and with shop stewards and captains at our TV writers rooms and our broadcast and digital newsrooms. The situation is complex and unsettling, to say the least. Employers’ responses range from mandated work-at-home to business-as-usual. For its part, the Guild stands ready to advise and represent writers who have questions about workplace safety, or about contractual or employment rights in these extraordinary circumstances. Guild lawyers, business representatives and other staff are available to help provide advice and advocacy for you, if necessary. If you have any concerns about your own workplace situation, please contact your WGAE representative (see contact information below).
We urge you to do everything in your power to minimize the risk of infection to the people you work with by strongly considering options like working at home, conducting meetings by Skype or Zoom or Bluejeans or conference call. We know this might be difficult for a host of reasons but please consider it.
Please note that WGAE staffers are working at home as much as possible, although some work requires staff to come into the office or to attend meetings outside the office. We are rescheduling as many meetings from in-person to phone – or online-only – including meetings with members, but some things must be done face to face.
The union’s operations will remain as efficient and effective as possible, but if it takes someone a bit longer to get back to you or complete a task, please understand we are trying to balance our vital union work with serious public health concerns.
Finally, we have been communicating with our sister unions to learn as much as possible about workplace conditions and the appropriate responses.
Thank you and stay safe.
- Laurie Davidson, firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-767-7827
- Jocelyn Krause, email@example.com; 212-767-7843
- Rachel Harris, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Terri Nilliasca, email@example.com
- Ani Quigley, firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-767-7823
- Andrew Greenberg, email@example.com, 212-767-7838
Upcoming Guild Events
All in-person WGAE events are postponed through early April. Please check the WGAEast.org’s events calendar for upcoming events that will be hosted by videoconference. We will provide updates on the Guild’s upcoming events schedule in a timely manner.
COVID-19-related support through California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) will also be a topic of the March 18th webinar, WGA CA Paid Family Leave: Benefits for New Parents and People Caring for Ill Family Members, presented in partnership with the Actors Fund. RSVP here to join.
There is no in-person Script Registration at the WGAE offices. However, you are still able (and encouraged) to register your scripts online at scriptregistration.org.
Healthcare Information & Legal Support
PWGA Pension & Health Updates
COVID-19 (coronavirus) is here, and the Health Plan is here to help you. If you or a dependent need to get screened of tested for COVID-19, the Health Plan will cover 100% of your cost-sharing (including deductible and co-insurance) for both in-network and out-of-network tests and screenings. Please note that treatment of COVID-19 illnesses will be covered under Plan Rules as usual with cost-sharing in effect. For more details about this waiver, click HERE.
Telemedicine: Guild members may video chat with a doctor online with LiveHealth Online, a service of Anthem Blue Cross. Both physical and mental health resources are available. You just need a phone, tablet or computer equipped with video and an Internet connection. Learn more HERE.
If your health insurance has expired, you can keep it active by opting into COBRA, which is a federal law that allows you to keep the group insurance you had through a job, a spouse’s job or a parent for up to 18 months (sometimes longer). In New York State, for example, you can keep COBRA coverage for up to 36 months. The cost can be high, but it is often less expensive than buying insurance on your own. You have 60 days from the date of your notification letter to elect COBRA coverage.
Update as of October 2021
Because of mobilization by the WGA East, other entertainment unions, and the Actors Fund, the State of New York has reinstated the Continuation Assistance Demonstration Program for Entertainment Industry Employees – subsidy program for entertainment industry employees that provides a 50% subsidy of COBRA premiums.
The PWGA health plan staff is aware of this program and is in contact with the State agency responsible for administering it. If you meet the eligibility criteria – which many WGAE members do when they lose PWGA coverage – please be sure to apply. For more information on the subsidy, visit the New York Continuation Assistance Demonstration Program website (external – opens in a new window).
Federal Health Insurance (Medicaid) and ACA Health Insurance Subsidies
Medicaid is the federal and state funded program to provide health insurance for low-income Americans. Eligibility requirements vary by states, and are typically based on income, assets, age and household size. If you do not qualify for Medicaid, you may qualify for subsidies through the health insurance exchange. It is important to note that income thresholds include non-wage income such as unemployment compensation and retirement account distributions.
Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs
Some states offer programs designed to assist low-income individuals with the costs of pharmaceutical drugs. Some of these programs are limited to seniors, while others are open to beneficiaries of any age. You can see if your state has a program here.
The Guild’s CARES Act guide includes a summary of the different types of benefits, answers to frequently asked questions, links to relevant state agencies, and information on howto apply for those benefits for which you are eligible.
Here are some additional resources which may help you navigate the CARES Act:
- CARES Act Flowchart
- CARES Act Fact Sheet Unemployment Insurance Provisions
- CARES Act Briefing Document
New York State is waiving the 7-Day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines. For more information, click HERE. The NY Department of Labor also recently released a revamped system for filing unemployment claims online. To access the new system, click here.
If you are a broadcast news WGAE member who has been working as a temporary employee and has seen a reduction in hours, you should apply for UI. You can earn partial benefits if your hours were reduced by at least 20%.
With many workplaces facing reduced demand due to COVID-19, the NY Department of Labor has a possible alternative to layoffs and Unemployment Insurance: the Shared Work Program. This program allows workplaces to retain staff on a reduced work schedule while collecting partial Unemployment Insurance benefits to make up the difference. For more information on this program, click here.
Legally, all employers have an obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace. Guild staff are available to advise and represent writers who have questions about workplace safety, or about contractual or employment rights in these extraordinary circumstances. If necessary, Guild lawyers, business agents and other staff are available to help provide advice and advocacy for you. If you have questions, please contact Ann Burdick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, read these answers to COVID-19 employment and benefit questions.
Paid Family Leave & Disability Insurance
In New York City, workers may be eligible for wage replacement through New York City Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law if they are unable to work because they have been infected with COVID-19, are caregiver to someone who has been infected by COVID-19, or have had their work hours cut or eliminated as a result of COVID-19. Visit the agency’s website for more information.
In California, workers may be eligible for wage replacement through California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) if they are unable to work because they have been infected with COVID-19, are caregiver to someone who has been infected by COVID-19, or have had their work hours cut or eliminated as a result of COVID-19. Visit the agency’s website for more information.
The Actors Fund
The Actors Fund offers a range of financial, disability, and healthcare services to the broader entertainment industry. Those interested in receiving support from the Actors Fund should note that, for the coming weeks, its Los Angeles, New York and Chicago offices will temporarily transition in-person program offerings to online and phone meetings only.
Click here to learn more about Actors Fund Emergency Financial Assistance.
See available offerings on The Actors Fund website.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Though much is still unknown about the virus, there is some understanding of best practices for limiting it’s spread. Visit the CDC website for information on how the virus spreads, symptoms to look out for, what to do in the case of infection, and other frequently asked questions.
Additional Financial Support
Many states and municipalities are funding rental assistance programs to support those impacted by the pandemic. You can use this map to find one in your community.
Food Assistance (SNAP)
The supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP – formerly known as food stamps) provides financial support for low-income individuals and families to purchase groceries. Eligibility requirements are similar to Medicaid, however, the size of the benefit can vary.
You can find more information about eligibility for SNAP and applying in your state here.
Local Food Banks
Unlike SNAP and other programs, many food banks do not have strict eligibility requirements and will give assistance to any individual or family who has a need. You can find a food bank near you at https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank. Additionally, many social service organizations and religious groups are currently operating temporary food assistance programs.
Assistance with Utility Bills
The low income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP) provides assistance to eligible individuals and families with heating and cooling costs. This program is administered on a state level and contact information for your state’s program can be found here. In addition, many utility companies operate their own internal assistance programs.
Consistent with public health recommendations, we recommend writers work from home if possible. If you are a supervisor, contact your studio for guidance. The following tools may be useful to writers’ rooms and teams looking to work remotely.
For room discussions & meetings:
For boarding & notes:
For live texting:
- United States Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Updates on COVID-19. View here.
- Economic Policy Institute (EPI): Getting Serious About the Economic Response to COVID-19. View here.
- A chart listing state law provisions on job protection and leave for workers affected by quarantine. View here.
- National Endowment for the Arts: COVID-19 Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations. View here.