We know that many TAG members are being impacted by work stoppages related to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. For those who are struggling and in need of support, we have compiled a list of important resources that can provide some relief during this uncertain time.
MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY PENSION AND HEALTH PLANS (MPI)
No-Cost Cobra Health Coverage Relief
If you are currently enrolled in MPI’s Active Health Plan and your MPI health coverage expires due to work stoppages because of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, you might be eligible for up to six months of no-cost COBRA coverage when a minimum number of worked and banked hours have been attained at the end of the eligible Qualifying Period. No-cost means that COBRA premiums will be waived during the applicable Benefit Period. However, payment of your regular premiums for your MPI Active Health Plan coverage will still be required.
The required minimum number of worked and banked hours and Qualifying Periods can be found here.
Participants who are eligible for this benefit (some exclusions apply) will be contacted by mail by MPI approximately 30 days before their health coverage through MPI is set to expire. When you are notified, pay close attention to the deadline for completing your COBRA application.
Individual Account Plan Hardship Withdrawal
Eligible Participants who are vested in the Motion Picture Industry Individual Account Plan (IAP) as of the year ending December 2022 will be able to apply for a one-time special early withdrawal of up to 20% of their 2022 IAP account balance. This amount is not to exceed a maximum dollar limit of $20,000. This is a one-time hardship withdrawal provision. Applications must be submitted by December 31, 2023.
More details about IAP Hardship Withdrawal relief can be found here.
The IAP Hardship Withdrawal application form can be found on the MPI website under Strike Relief.
MOTION PICTURE & TELEVISION (MPTF)
MPTF is offering strike-specific relief to IATSE members who are in good standing, can provide a 2022 or 2023 qualifying pay stub, and meet designated asset limits. Given the unusual circumstance of work stoppages at this time, MPTF is doing its best to be flexible depending on where people are when they call, their monthly budgets, and the time frame it is taking to process grants.
For TAG members who do not meet the above requirements, MPTF continues to offer needs-based emergency relief funds that provide financial assistance to qualified entertainment industry members. In general, qualified is defined as seven qualifying years of entertainment industry employment, but because the definition of “qualifying” is not one-size-fits all, eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis. You are encouraged to call MPTF to find out if you qualify and what programs you qualify for, such as counseling assistance or financial support including immediate basic living expenses like rent, car insurance, and food.
For strike relief and other emergency funds, please call:
If you are under age 65: 323-634-3888
If you are 65 and over: 323-634-3866
You will speak to an MPTF social worker who will assess your eligibility and specific needs or circumstances.
ENTERTAINMENT COMMUNITY FUND
Entertainment Community Fund provides access to emergency financial services through various relief funds designed for specific purposes, such as paying immediate living expenses. A list of the different funds can be found here, and you can find the various fund eligibility requirements here along with the application form.
The two funds relevant to TAG members are the general Entertainment Community Fund and the Hollywood Support Staff Relief Fund, which provides one-time grants to assistants and support staff who have less than three years of industry experience and have lost employment due to an industry work stoppage—these are jobs such as showrunner’s assistant, writer’s assistant, etc.
Regarding application requirements:
- The requirement for a union card or proof of union membership status is not relevant to the funds that TAG members are eligible for. You do not need to worry about this if you are a new member and do not have a membership card.
- For the general Entertainment Community Fund, you will need to provide proof of three years worked out of the last seven years (2017-2023) in the entertainment industry. The years do not need to be consecutive.
Regarding the application process:
- Read all instructions and make sure to have all materials ready before you start. You cannot save application pages or go backward in the portal.
- Complete your application fully. Incomplete applications are bogging down the process, causing a 30-day response rate for current submissions.
- All requested materials must be digitized. For earned income documents, you can use a W2 or 1099.
- Every document must have your name on it. A bank statement, bill, etc. cannot be used if it does not have your name on it. Documents without your name on them will slow down your application.
THE UNION SOLIDARITY COALITION
The goal of the newly formed Union Solidarity Coalition is to offer direct financial support to entertainment industry crew members who have lost health insurance due to strike-related shutdowns. If you are not eligible for MPI’s Cobra relief program, you might be eligible for this program.
You can go to the Entertainment Health Insurance Solutions website and fill out this short form to be contacted by a health benefits specialist.
LABOR COMMUNITY SERVICES
Labor Community Services has been assisting unemployed and underemployed union families with groceries for six decades. The organization also has a Strike Fund. You can use this intake form to request assistance.
FIRST ENTERTAINMENT CREDIT UNION
If you are a member of First Entertainment Credit Union, you can take advantage of hardship assistance programs such as:
●Skip-A-Pay, which allows you to skip a payment on a loan that you have through the credit union (not including real estate loans) for a $30 fee.
●Stretch Loans, which are a lower cost alternative to payday loans to help cover costs between paychecks.
If you hold a credit card, mortgage, or personal loan through Union Plus, you might be eligible for a Strike Grant. Mortgage grants can include up to six (6) monthly mortgage payments. Unlike a loan, a Strike Grant does not need to be repaid. Strike benefits also include insurance payment deferments for Union Plus policy holders. Each benefit is subject to the eligibility of the strike, the date the strike began, and other requirements.
Following are some additional financial relief services not related to unions or strike funds:
Maravilla Foundation offers utility and water bill assistance.
Burbank Temporary Aid Center offers rent and utility assistance for Burbank residents.
Jewish Free Loan Association offers zero fee, zero assistance loans up to $3,000 for those affected by the strikes.