Editor's Note: This information was originally included as a part of this post. But due to the ongoing and ever changing nature of the COVID19 situation, and the outsize impact (both in terms of the physical safety and economics of intimate work) on this community, the decision was made to publish it as a standalone resource for providers and workers who may be newly eligible for assistance or benefits like unemployment insurance.
Below is a list of resources and places to get more information on how to make sure that folks are able to take advantage of the options available and stay as safe as possible. The sex industry is diverse and includes people in varying levels of employment status, different methods of payment and record keeping, different factors for what they can and cannot disclose without losing other benefits. Each option may require differing levels of what you have to declare, what you have to disclose and to whom, and where that information goes. Also, different states offer different benefits and protections depending on who is offering the program, so where you live is going to have an impact. Your situation is going to be unique, and right now it's confusing for everyone because there are many things still in flux and many places don't yet have clarity or infrastructure.
Don't get discouraged - it's confusing and weird for everyone right now - you're doing your best. This info is up to date as of April 7, 2020:
COVID-Related Financial Options for Relief
- Many states have expanded the ability to apply for unemployment insurance (UI) to people who are gig workers or independent contractors, meaning even if you're not a traditional employee you can still apply for up to 39 weeks of support. The last COVID-19 Federal package gave additional money for UI and allowed states to expand their UI to contractors, but it's up to the state if they choose to do so. This article from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) breaks down some of that info, including policy asks that you can push for.
Reach out to your state's unemployment insurance office ASAP to find out what's possible, and what paperwork you'll need, but you will need to have some on the record income.
- If you can afford it, consider health insurance right now. While testing is free (if you can get it? Apparently tigers to the front of the line), treatment is not, though that might change in a future COVID bill. If you've lost your job, that's considered a qualifying life event and you can enroll in your state's healthcare options. Several states, though, have created "special enrollment periods" when you can sign up immediately instead of during the small annual window that pops up in the fall.
This article has a full list of states which have created that option, including the date by which you must enroll. Differing levels of income disclosure and records of that income are going to change what you can and cannot apply for, so be prepared with that information about your situation.
- So far Congress has passed three COVID-related pieces of legislation, including a universal basic income payment of up to $1,200 for folks who have paid taxes in 2018 or 2019 and made under $75,000 each year. If you attached a bank account to your returns, they'll automatically deposit it into that account. If you need to input or change that information, the IRS is developing a website to do that, but it doesn't exist yet. Eventually they'll mail checks but that'll take longer. You can stay up to date with the IRS's FAQ.
If you haven't filed your taxes for 2018 or 2019, it might be a simple process and you can still file - they've extended the deadline for filing til July 15. You can even file if you're not declaring anything - just file as "unemployed." If you are afraid you owe something and that's holding you back from filing, talk to a tax professional about a payment plan and various options for keeping that to a minimum - you're an independent contractor, which is all they need to know.
This NYTimes article has a ton of FAQ about what's going on with that payment, including info about dependents. It'll ask you to sign up for the New York Times with your email, but you won't have to pay – all Time articles about COVID-19 are free right now.
If you are receiving Social Security and haven't filed 2018 or 2019, you'll still get the payment. Note: You WILL have to pay 2021 taxes on the stimulus money you get assuming you make enough in 2020 overall.
- If you have Federal student loans [New York Times] payments are going to be put into forebearance (you don't have to pay right now but those months are not forgiven entirely, sadly) until September 30 and interest accrual is going to be suspended (meaning you won't be charged interest in these months). This is automatic for all federal student loans, so you don't have to do anything for this one.
- While there are still on-going fights about more relief for renters, there are some protections right now. The last package said that there would be a 120-day moratorium on evictions from places which receive loans from Fannie and Freddie, which is about 70% of homes, with no penalties or fines. So if your landlord has one of these loans, they are not allowed to evict you for 120 days. This doesn't mean that rent is waived, so prepare for back rent to be owed when this ends.
States have also expanded protections beyond this, so check out JustShelter.org to find out more about your local area. Some cities have a blanket ban, but many do not. (And if you don't - make sure to put a call in to your state senator and city council to let them know how important this is. Here's a map of local actions around rent strikes from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, and organizing for housing support to get involved in.)
- The thing you might have been hearing about which DOES specifically exclude the sex industry is the Small Business Association's Disaster Assistance loan program for businesses employing than 500 people (starting April 3) and independent contractors (starting April 10). This isn't direct assistance from the government, it's the government pairing with existing lenders (banks, community development orgs) to guarantee the loans, and so that's who you're applying to, really. There is a note that you don't engage in "prurient sexual performances" but it's a check box and you can still apply for a loan. They might not care and you may get it. You might get denied. If you do get denied, you can file an appeal but that might take some cash for a lawyer unless you're gung-ho about being a plaintiff in a constitutional challenge to the definition of "prurient sexual performance" and then you should reach out to the ACLU. The definition of that term is based on the application of what's called the Miller obscenity test, and a lot of things are actually fine - sex shops, sex educators, probably even strip clubs. Where is gets trying is anything involving the internet, because of competing court decisions that the Supreme Court hasn't weighed in on.
Honestly, though, the process itself is still such a clusterfuck that many banks don't have enough information from the Fed to process applications yet, so no one's getting shit from that one any time soon, prurient sex-related or not. And when they do, it's clear Congress hasn't allocated enough money to meet what people are anticipating the need will be. TL;DR? Glad you read this part because it took a lot of research and phone calls to the SBA's really nice lawyers, but don't stress about it and don't think this standard is precluding any of the other benefits.
Specific Assistance and Help With Immediate Bills:
- If you're in need of food assistance, the SNAP program (it used to be called food stamps) just got additional funding and waived some of the requirements, so it might be worth applying to the program. It's a process, so be prepared with some documentation and emotional support.
- For folks struggling with utilities right now, many companies have pledged not to shut off services for 60 days for non payment. You can find the full list here.
- The internet has never been more important. Spectrum and Comcast are offering 60 days free for new customers who qualify.
- If you're looking to stay in and get access to medications, CVS and Walgreens are waiving delivery fees for medications from their pharmacies right now.
- Are you a writer? The PEN American has a Writers Emergency Fund is offering grants of $500 - $1,000, depending on different factors.
- For pet owners, the Humane Society has compiled various resources from vet support to pet food banks for those who want to shore up support for their creatures. We request pics, of course.
- Not all resources are available for folks who are undocumented. This is a list of resources specifically for folks lacking status, including the United We Dream-compiled list of healthcare centers.
Note: going for free testing will not affect your public charge status. Your health matters.
- The National Center on Transgender Equality has a guide specifically for trans folks in this moment, including specifically LGBTQ resources and trans-focused mutual aid funds.
- And of course, sex workers from day one began showing up for each other and forming mutual aid funds across the country. Here's the most comprehensive list I know of, which is a global directory.
The System Still Sucks
- It's always a good time to brush up on Know Your Rights info, and the National Lawyer's Guild has a guide specific to the COVID-19 crisis with information about sheltering in place orders, travel bans and more.
- Have someone you love on the inside? The National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys has resources for lawyers and community members to petition for release. (Also, this week @SurvivedandPunished is doing a week of action under the tag #FreeThemAll). Many jurisdictions have released folks, have ceased prosecutions for low-level offenses, changed procedures for parole, waived medical co-pays, and changed rules for or stopped in-person visits.
Prison Policy Initiative has a comprehensive list of changes to the system.
- While we're all moving online, protecting your communications is becoming more and more important. Here are the best encrypted apps (only you and the person you communicate with can see what is said), especially when communicating about organizing and work.
Harm Reduction Right Now
- Last week the CDC recommended that everyone start wearing face masks when going out in public, though suggested leaving the medical grade ones to medical professionals, who are still struggling to get basic Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Here's a ten minute video on a DIY mask:
- Maggie's Toronto, a sex worker org in Ontario, made an amazing sex worker harm reduction guide for workers, clients, third parties and allies
- Still want to hook up during the pandemic? The NYC Department of Health (different from the state and federal DOH) put out a statement on harm reduction and sex in the time of corona - and it acknowledges sex work!
- If you are a substance user, Harm Reduction Coalition has got you, with this great resource of recommendation.
- Many folks are moving into new online areas of the industry right now, and there are unique vulnerabilities in each area of the industry. While there's currently a production hold for porn, Free Speech Coalition's INSPIRE program has a guide for new performers that has a LOT of great info.
- We know that sex workers are uniquely vulnerable to intimate partner violence (IPV), and that there are marked increases in IPV during times of crisis. None of these resources are sex worker-specific, but there's still a lot to draw from. Futures Without Violence has many tools including safety plans, phone numbers for support, and pod mapping worksheets.
- If you are worried about a family member enacting violence during shelter in place and leaving isn't an option or something you're not in a place to do right now, this is a read about how to de-escalate a situation in front of you from SEPS.
- Camming for the first time? This thread is a gem.
There's also probably three more bills that will move in the coming months - they've been staggered to try and get things out, like having all testing covered, as soon as possible.
We'll try our best to keep you updated. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any updates or additions you think should be on this list.
Remember: you can track all of Slixa announcements and changes related to the COVID19 pandemic on the COVID19 tag.