As soon as the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), ASMP began to organize a series of webinars and town hall meetings to provide information that would enable our members to understand the provisions of the bill and how they may pursue benefits under the new law. For the foreseeable future, we will continue to hold webinars every Wednesday with experts discussing issues of importance to our members. Our past webinars have dealt with such critical issues as dealing with the psychological impact of social distancing. and the opportunities to get financial relief in these troubling times. . In addition, every Friday afternoon, we will continue to hold town meetings hosted by myself, our general counsel Tom Maddrey and ASMP advocacy counsel, Mike Klipper. These town meetings provide members with an excellent opportunity to ask questions pertaining to the CARES Act and other issues of critical importance.
As a prelude to the passage of the CARES Act, ASMP lobbied members of Congress to ensure that any aid package include financial support for freelance photographers, who often are among the smallest of small business owners. Key among our requests was expansion of unemployment compensation to include freelancers, independent contractors, gig workers, and those small business owners who might be operating as sole proprietors, LLC’s etc. In addition, we sought inclusion of provisions that would ensure the SBA loan programs also included our members’ small businesses.
While these efforts, supported by advocacy letters coming from members helped persuade Congress of the need to take these actions, it is clear more is needed, particularly as we witness the difficulty of the executive branch departments such as the Treasury and Small Business Administration in launching programs designed to swiftly launch the flow of money to individuals, families, and businesses.
We are already seeing that top leaders in the House and Senate recognize that further stimulus aid will be necessary. In addition, more emergency funding for the health care system will also be necessary. We are embarking on a letter writing campaign to make clear that any future additional relief bills address the needs our members and those similarly situated—individuals who are not necessarily foremost on the minds of members of Congress as they take on these daunting challenges.
We know that each of you as individual members are being challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic and that receiving aid swiftly is of paramount importance. We are working to make legislators at all levels know of our concerns and the expectation they act swiftly to meet the needs of the public. In doing that messaging, we are also asking for your support. By filling out our COVID-19 Impact Survey, you can provide us with the data and anecdotal information that makes clear the levels of harm you’re experiencing. It helps us to hone and sharpen our message. We are also helped when you make use of our own Phone2Action campaign tools to contact your Representative and Senators with your story and request for their help in legislative relief packages.
While we are pleased that our efforts on your behalf paid such dividends in the provisions of the CARES Act, we know that our advocacy work has only just started. We encourage you to let non-members in our photographic community know about the things we are doing to support them, especially our advocacy efforts. Ensuring that our voices are heard is a group effort and we want your participation with us to continue so we get the aid and support we deserve.
Thomas R. Kennedy
ASMP Executive Director