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The CARES Act includes provisions for self-employed workers and makes financial disaster relief available. There are also steps you can take to ease financial strain from the cost of housing, car and credit card payments, and health insurance premiums. Read on to learn more about your options. If you have begun the process of applying for relief through the CARES Act, please provide feedback on your experience here.


CERF+ and partners in the Cultural Advocacy Group (CAG) have issued a statement to Congress outlining the needs of the arts sector in the next federal relief package. You can read that statement here

Here’s how you can help:

Contact your congressional delegation and ask them to include the measures called for by the Cultural Advocacy Group in the next round of federal funding. Here is some sample text that you can use, along with a instructions that makes it easy for you to send this message to your congressional delegation.

Relief Through the CARES Act

This is compiled from the best information we have at the time. Regulations are being drafted and the landscape is changing daily and hourly, but it is still important to take action now.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

File for Unemployment: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is available to self-employed workers. This will include an extra 13 weeks (39 rather than 26), and an extra $600/wk added to the payments. Unemployment offices are swamped, so you will need to apply online! There are provisions for being mailed a cash card, but the best course is to have your bank account information ready and have it direct deposited. The Freelancers Union also has published this state-by-state guide for applying for PUA, as well as these tips if you need help with your claim.


  • Apply through your state unemployment office. This assistance is delivered by the states who will be reimbursed by the federal government. Each state has it’s own limits, but $600 will be added to whatever you would normally get.
  • Check with your state unemployment office. Some would prefer that you apply for regular unemployment right away, some prefer that you wait until the PUA assistance is actually available. If you can go ahead, apply now! If you have W2 income and qualify for state unemployment, you will receive regular unemployment. If you are self-employed and ineligible for state unemployment, you must still apply and be declined in order to apply for PUA when it is available. So the sooner you get a rejection the better.
  • For PUA, you will need your tax records such as Schedule C for the last year or two. If you have low or zero net income, apply anyway. It is likely that you will receive compensation based on 50% the average payment in your state plus the $600 per week. The base amount will vary widely by state.
  •  If you work part time or have very episodic income, take time to study advice for how to characterize income. In some states it makes a difference if you show it on one day per week or spread out. 
  •  If you receive any kind of unemployment assistance, you must re-certify each and every week to continue to get it.
  • If you receive a forgivable payroll loan or other assistance that covers your pay, you need to be sure that you are not receiving multiple grants for the same thing-no double-dipping. Be up front and ask questions.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans
  • For small businesses, available from Small Business Administration
  • Self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, freelancers, etc. are eligible
  • Apply online: SBA says that the application should take less than two hours to complete.
  • Funds are limited and we are hearing “first come, first served,” so don’t delay application. If it turns out you don’t need it you can always turn it down or hold the funds and use them to repay the loan.
  • These loans are intended to cover business expenses during the COVID crisis for businesses impacted by the crisis.
  • Three days after approval there is a $10,000 advance that will be considered a grant.
  • The remainder of the loan is a low interest loan.

Here’s SBA’s guide to their COVID-19 Relief options.

This is an excellent guide to this program from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Follow all the links, especially the one to the actual SBA loan program.

Payroll Protection Program (PPP) Loans
  • For small businesses to maintain payroll and cover other business expenses during the COVID crisis.
  • All or part of the loan will be forgivable if you are able to keep employees on your payroll.
  •  Also available to sole proprietors and self-employed workers. It is uncertain exactly how this will work for very small operations.
  • Apply through a bank. Banks must be certified SBA lenders-though more banks will be authorized to make these loans. Some bigger banks have dedicated SBA loan officers who may be able to expedite loans. If you have a relationship with your bank, that would be a good place to start.
  • Application opens on April 3 for most small businesses, including self-employed, sole proprietors, etc. Application opens on April 10 for independent contractors and certain others.
  • We are hearing that this is “first come, first served” although it is possible that additional funds will be appropriated in other bills.

Here’s more information from the Chamber of Commerce.

Here’s the Small Business Administration’s info on COVID-19 related PPP Loans.

Relief Through Deferring Payments


Talk to your landlord and see if you can negotiate rent forgiveness, reduced rent for a period of time, or some other arrangement like barter (if you have unsold inventory or are able to do custom work, or property improvements). There are provisions in the CARES Act that suspend evictions if the owner has a federally-backed mortgage. You can read more from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here


Talk to your bank and try to negotiate interest forgiveness and several months extension of the mortgage without penalty. If you have a federally-backed mortgage, then there are provisions in the CARES Act that prevent foreclosure for 60 days and make a forbearance of up to 180 days available. You must go through your loan provider to access this forbearance. 

Here is an excellent compilation of additional information for homeowners and renters from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Car and Credit Card Payments:

Ask for deferral of payments without interest or penalties until after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Edmunds has an FAQ on deferring car payments.

Health Insurance

If you have your health insurance through the marketplace and are anticipating a significantly lower income that you originally projected, you may be able to go back to the marketplace and make adjustments. You will likely be prompted to submit documentation to substantiate the change.

If you do not have coverage, there are currently 12 states that have opened up enrollment.

NPR has published a comprehensive list of health insurance scenarios and options, current as of April 3rd.

Legal Disclaimer. The information contained in CERF+ materials and on the CERF+ or affiliated websites is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this site without seeking legal or other professional advice.
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