Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates for DGA Members

CV Updates new

March 27, 2020

DGA Statement on Passage of Expanded Coronavirus Relief Legislation Securing Access to Economic Support for Creative Workers

LOS ANGELES – Directors Guild of America President Thomas Schlamme made the following statement today upon Congress’s passage of a new coronavirus economic relief bill which includes provisions expanding access to economic support for creative workers. The expanded measures protect DGA members and other entertainment workers – whose freelance, project-to-project employment can make qualifying for unemployment benefits difficult – and ensure that benefits will be more generous given the wide-ranging suspension of film and television production. The expanded protections in the bill increase and extend unemployment benefits, send one-time direct payments to individuals and families, provide financial support to states, and establish the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for those who would not otherwise qualify for unemployment insurance.

“We applaud our allies in the House and the Senate for including provisions that provide access to vital lifelines, including unemployment benefits and direct cash payments, for our members and hundreds of thousands of creative workers whose unique working situations were a barrier to such critical relief. Lawmakers have heeded our urgent calls to address the needs of our members and others, everyday working men and women, who were so hard hit by the coronavirus crisis as film and television production shut down, including aid for those whose future projects were canceled.

“We thank Congressional leadership, and the lawmakers championing the critical work of our members whose films and television programs entertain billions of people around the world. This support will keep them protected and will allow them to come out strong on the other end when they’re able to continue work again. We urge the President to approve these protections, which will soon put much needed money in the hands of our members and their families.”



March 25, 2020

Latest Information for Members from DGA President Thomas Schlamme and National Executive Director Russell Hollander

Dear Members:

As the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on our health, our work, our community and the overall economy continues to unfold, your Guild is working hard for you. With film, television and commercial production suspended for the time being, and our members in news working hard to keep the world informed – we have been in contact with so many of you who have shared what’s on your minds. While the situation continues to remain fluid, we know you are seeking certainty in a sea of unknowns. Your Guild is here for you to be that beacon as we continue to fight on the front lines. For your protection. For your rights. And for your peace of mind. Here are just a few of the ways we’re working to do that:


ADVOCATING FOR YOUR RIGHTS TO BE PAID
Our contracts staff and field representatives have been working nonstop, connecting with hundreds of members about their individual work situations, and advocating on their behalf. They’ve been in constant contact with Studios, Networks and other employers, our sister guilds and unions, agents and entertainment lawyers. As part of that work, the major studios have committed to two weeks of pay to carry our below-the-line members impacted by production shutdowns, and we are in talks with other employers demanding they do the same or better. We are also working hard to secure relief for directors. For those of you who work in news, we are pushing the Networks and Local Stations to provide a safe workplace.

FAST-TRACKING RESIDUALS
In anticipation of the current “Stay at Home” order that’s been instituted, our Residuals department (and staff from other departments) worked around the clock and on weekends in advance of the order to fast-track thousands of residuals checks worth tens of millions of dollars so you would have this important source of income in your hands immediately. As additional checks are delivered, the team is continuing its incredible work to turn them around as quickly as possible.

FIGHTING FOR FEDERAL AND STATE AID
As our federal and state governments develop and pass legislation to assist America's workers who lose jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, we continue our tireless work to make our voices heard loud and clear in Washington and at the state level. As freelance employees who may work for many different employers over the course of a year, we know some members may not fit the mold of the average worker for which most eligibility rules are drafted for governmental programs. Together with our sister guilds and unions, we’ve orchestrated a full court press on Congress and state governments to ensure economic relief is expanded, extended and made available to entertainment industry workers who might otherwise not be eligible. We’ve been leading the charge, reaching out to allies in Congress and at the state level to hammer home the importance of including entertainment industry workers in an economic relief bill. And we are so close to seeing tangible results. Hopefully by the time you get this, a bill will have been passed with measures expected to include expanded unemployment benefits and "pandemic unemployment" benefits to ensure that entertainment industry workers not eligible for traditional unemployment can receive comparable weekly benefits.

SETTING STAFF UP REMOTELY TO SUPPORT YOU
Also, in advance of the “Stay at Home” order, we began consulting with medical and other experts on how best to conduct our operations and implement social distancing policies while providing critical support for our members. We have equipped the DGA staff to work remotely. Our technology team worked diligently to get each individual up and running and to ensure the highest level of online security to get our staff linked into the critical Guild databases and systems they need to support our members.

HEALTH PLAN
In addition to the Guild, the Directors Guild-Producer Pension and Health Plans, which are a separate legal entity jointly administered by representatives of the DGA and Producers, has also been working hard for Plan participants. The Plan’s Board of Trustees has approved temporary changes to coverage in response to the evolving coronavirus pandemic. That includes the waiving of all patient cost sharing (i.e., co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles) for COVID-19 related testing effective immediately and continuing further notice, expanding coverage to include telemedicine/telepsychology visits until further notice, and per today’s announcement, allowing participants whose dependent premiums are due on April 1st to defer payment of dependent premiums until July 1st.

We know many of you are concerned and anxious about making your minimums. The Plans are in the process of preparing a newsletter that lays this out specifically. But we want to assure those of you whose current coverage expires on March 31st that if you’ve met your minimum earnings threshold ($35,000 in covered earnings) from January 2019 to December 2019 you are covered through March 31, 2021. To reiterate, even if you had no earnings in the first quarter of 2020, you are still protected for the next year. We know this can seem confusing, so if you don’t know when your coverage period begins or you’re concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on future eligibility, the Plans’ myPHP online benefits portal can provide you with up-to-date information on your eligibility and reporting earnings, or you can call the Plan’s eligibility department at (323) 866-2200 ext. 402.

Rest assured, the Trustees will continue to assess the impact of the coronavirus on our members and will consider appropriate temporary changes as they have been doing to date.

DUES
We are also aware that a number of you have raised concerns about your DGA dues. Quarterly dues reports will proceed as scheduled in April and members will be required to report their earnings. For members who cannot afford to pay their dues, we have made the decision to refrain from suspending members for non-payment of dues through July 1st, at which time we will assess the situation. But if you have the good fortune to be able to pay your dues at this time, please do. That money goes to help operate our Guild so we can continue to protect you throughout this pandemic. But again, if you find yourself experiencing hardship and cannot pay at this time, there is leniency.


Again, please know that we are working hard on your behalf, and we are committed to keeping you informed. And please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or need support. In the meantime, keep checking the coronavirus section of our website for the latest developments.

We hope you and your loved ones are safe.

Thomas Schlamme
President

Russell Hollander
National Executive Director



March 19, 2020

The DGA, Together with Arts, Entertainment, and Media Unions Call on Policymakers to Protect Media Workers in Emergency Relief Packages

WASHINGTON, DC—With hundreds of thousands of creative professionals out of work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, arts, entertainment, and media unions affiliated with the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) are calling on the White House, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Congress to quickly pass emergency relief legislation that both enhances and expands state unemployment benefits and sends direct unrestrained cash to the impacted workers they represent.

“Arts, entertainment, and media workers have been hit hard by this public health and economic crisis. Overnight, production and performances industry-wide shut down indefinitely, leaving most entertainment and media workers without a source of income to cover essential expenses. Workers who are left without a paycheck and may not qualify for unemployment have no recourse unless Congress acts now. Elected officials have a moral responsibility to ensure emergency relief packages address these workers’ unique circumstances,” said DPE President Jennifer Dorning. “DPE affiliate unions representing arts, entertainment, and media professionals are committed to working with the federal government to provide economic relief during this long-term national crisis.”

Current state unemployment insurance benefits tend to be insufficient for arts and entertainment workers, and many will not be eligible for the paid leave expansion in the newly passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

“Creative professionals have unique work situations that prevent them from gaining much relief from state unemployment insurance programs,” said Dorning. “For workers in the arts and entertainment industries who are classified as employees, the benefits tend to be minimal. In a state like California, weekly benefits for creative professionals range from $40 to $450, which is not enough to weather this crisis – and far below what creative professionals would be earning if they could work.”

This week, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law. The legislation provides relief to many workers across the country, but its paid sick leave and childcare leave provisions only apply to a limited number of still-employed arts, entertainment, and media professionals.

“We thank the President, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell and the rest of Congress for this much-needed first step in providing support to workers impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Dorning. “We look forward to a future emergency relief package that applies to all affected Americans, including those who have been laid off.”

DPE and its affiliated arts, entertainment, and media unions are calling on the federal government to include the following in its future COVID-19 related emergency relief legislation:

  • Provide states with dedicated funds to increase unemployment benefits and extend the number of eligible weeks beyond 26 weeks, similar to what was done during the 2008 recession.
  • Access to unemployment benefits for the many creative professionals who rely on contract work, tipped jobs, or their own small business to supplement their income and earn a living.
  • Continue enhancing the Unemployment Compensation system, including for those who lose expected work because their productions are shut down.
  • Direct cash to affected workers and self-employed individuals that’s unrestricted, sent bi-weekly, and not tied to actual lost wages, work histories, or federal tax obligations.
  • Direct cash plans that consider the number of children a worker has to care for.
  • The benefit amount for direct cash plans should exceed $1,000 a month, due to the cost of living throughout the country. For example, in New York the estimated cost for a family of four is $6,976 and in Birmingham, Alabama the estimated monthly costs for a family of four is $3,434. Both figures are much higher than existing unemployment benefits provide.
  • Enhancements to SNAP and WIC food programs.
  • Provide paid sick leave, mortgage and rent payment relief, student loan payment waivers, credit reporting moratoriums, and childcare assistance.

The unions committing to advocacy effort include:

  • Actors’ Equity Association
  • American Federation of Musicians
  • American Guild of Musical Artists
  • American Guild of Variety Artists
  • Directors Guild of America
  • Guild of Italian American Artists
  • International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • Office and Professional Employees International Union
  • Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
  • Stage Directors and Choreographers Society
  • Writers Guild of America, East



March 19, 2020

DGA HEALTH PLAN BOARD OF TRUSTEES APPROVES TEMPORARY COVERAGE OF TELEMEDICINE AND TELEPSYCHOLOGY IN ADDITION TO WAIVING COST SHARING FOR IN-NETWORK COVID-19 RELATED TESTING

Subject to DGA-Producer Health Plan rules and requirements below, all patient cost sharing (i.e., co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles) will be waived for in-network COVID-19 related testing through June 15, 2020, and telemedicine/telepsychology visits will be covered until further notice.

During this challenging and unprecedented time caused by the coronavirus outbreak, many physicians’ offices and therapists’ offices are not seeing patients in-person to prevent further spread of the virus. For the continued protection and safety of all Health Plan participants, the Board of Trustees has approved temporary changes to Health Plan coverage in response to the evolving coronavirus crisis. These changes take into account the importance of COVID-19 testing and related treatment, as well as the need for limiting in-person interactions and social gatherings to the extent possible, as recommended by health authorities.

TELEMEDICINE AND TELEPSYCHOLOGY VISITS (NETWORK AND NON-NETWORK) COVERED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

For the protection and safety of all Health Plan participants in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, the Health Plan’s Board of Trustees has unanimously approved a Plan amendment that will temporarily provide coverage for both network and non-network telemedicine and telepsychology services. This means that, effective March 16, 2020 and until further notice, the Health Plan will cover office visits that can properly be conducted online with a licensed provider, as long as those visits and services would otherwise be covered under the terms of the Health Plan.

You may visit your network or non-network provider online or use Anthem’s LiveHealth Online network providers, subject to the Health Plan’s applicable deductibles and co-insurance rules. For further information, regarding Anthem’s telemedicine and telepsychology program, please visit www.livehealthonline.com, call 1-888-LiveHealth (548-3432) or email to help@livehealthonline.com. When emailing, make sure to include your name, email address and phone number where you can be reached.

All other Health Plan rules remain in effect, including but not limited to the exclusion of services that are not medically necessary, the exclusion of marriage, family or relationship counseling and/or therapy, and the exclusion for charges in excess of the Allowable Charge limit (meaning you will be responsible for any out-of-network charges above the Allowable Charge or Reasonable and Customary Charge limit).

Because this change is temporary, you will be notified when this special telemedicine benefit ends.

For more information about Anthem’s LiveHealth Online, go to our LiveHealth Online webpage.

COST SHARING WAIVED FOR COVID-19 RELATED TESTING THROUGH JUNE 15, 2020

Effective March 13, 2020, all patient cost sharing (i.e., co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles) will be waived for all in-network COVID-19 related testing through June 15, 2020 when administration of the test is (1) medically necessary, (2) ordered by a network provider and (3) performed at a network lab/facility.

COVID-19 testing via in-network telemedicine without cost sharing is effective March 16, 2020.

This includes patient cost sharing for office visits, telemedicine visits, urgent care centers and hospital emergency room visits for the purpose of COVID-19 testing. After June 15, 2020, the COVID-19 testing and associated visits will continue to be covered at the usual benefit level.

IF YOU HAVE ALREADY INCURRED A CLAIM

If you have already incurred a claim for services affected by the aforementioned Health Plan coverage changes, you may be eligible for reimbursement. We recommend that you reach out to the provider you received services from and ask that they submit a claim to Anthem on your behalf. If they are unable to do so, you will need to submit a claim form and copy of the itemized bill to Anthem. For more information on how to submit a claim, please go to our Filing a Claim webpage.

If you have questions, please reach out to the Participant Services Department at (323) 866-2200, Ext. 401.



March 16, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Your Guild Is Here For You

MESSAGE FROM DGA PRESIDENT
THOMAS SCHLAMME 
& NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RUSSELL HOLLANDER

Dear Members:

We know that so many of you are filled with anxiety about the unknowns of such an unprecedented, fluid situation – changing by the day, by the hour, by the minute. These feelings are everywhere. We understand. We get it. And that is why we are doing everything we can at the Guild for you, to reassure you, and to remind you how meaningful it is to be united. Especially at a time like this.

First and foremost, your health and safety continue to be our top priority. That’s hand-in-hand with our commitment to supporting you. As everything continues to change, we’re working hard on your behalf, and continuously re-evaluating how we adjust to meet your needs. Weeks ago, we appointed a multidisciplinary staff task force to actively monitor CDC, WHO, state and local guidance around the clock. To ensure keeping everyone safe, we have been consulting with medical and other experts on how best to conduct our operations and provide support for our members. Here’s a snapshot of that work, and important information we wanted to share with you.

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR EMPLOYMENT
Right now, leading medical authorities are advising that the most important way to prevent the spread of coronavirus is through social distancing, especially for the most vulnerable among us. For the film and television industry, this has led to many productions shutting down, and those that remain open taking additional steps to protect your health. We want to remind you that your Guild is here to protect you. We are, and will continue to be, in touch with the Studios, Networks and other employers about their plans and their obligations to you. As you’ve seen, most but not all productions have temporarily hit the pause button, which we fully support. If you continue to work, or if your production has been halted, and you have questions, please do not hesitate to call the Contracts line at (310) 289-2010, or email the DGA Contracts Department at Contracts@dga.org. If you communicate by email, please be sure to include the nature of your inquiry and your phone number, and you will receive a call back from an experienced Contracts team member.

IMMEDIATE FAST-TRACKING OF RESIDUAL PAYMENTS
Another way we are working for you is by implementing special procedures to fast-track all residual checks that are already at the Guild. The Residuals team, supported by staff from other departments throughout the Guild, worked around the clock to get thousands of checks in the mail immediately. As additional checks are delivered, we will continue turning them around as quickly as possible.

ADJUSTMENTS TO DGA OPERATIONS AS WE CONTINUE TO WORK FOR YOU
We are also concerned for the people we employ as a Guild. On the advice of our medical consultant, we have been hard at work implementing plans for our staff to work remotely beginning today. We will remain fully operational, and ask that you reach out to us by phone or email only, and refrain from visiting Guild offices in person. We are here for you, but please be patient as the volume of inquiries has increased considerably, and it may take a bit more time than usual to return your messages. Remember, we are all in this together.

FIGHTING FOR YOU IN WASHINGTON D.C.
We have also joined with our sister unions to call on Congress for financial relief for our members. As freelance employees, some of you may be particularly vulnerable to production shutdowns related to coronavirus. That’s why we’re pushing for legislation to provide economic relief to employees in the entertainment industry. We are working with a coalition of industry unions through the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees including IATSE, SAG-AFTRA, and Actors Equity – together with our allies in Congress.

DGA-PRODUCER HEALTH PLAN UPDATE & ADDITIONAL MEMBER RESOURCES
Given the importance of testing for coronavirus/COVID-19, the DGA-Producer Health Plan Board of Trustees has approved coverage of COVID-19-related testing and doctor visits for currently covered Health Plan participants. Effective immediately, all patient cost-shares (co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles) will be waived for all COVID-19 related testing through June 15, 2020 as long as it is: medically necessary; ordered by a network provider; and performed at a network lab/facility. This includes patient cost-shares for office visits, urgent care centers and hospital emergency room visits for the purpose of COVID-19 testing.

For more information, including tips on how to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities, visit the DGA Health Plan website at https://www.dgaplans.org/blog-post/health-plan-announces-coverage-for-coronavirus-testing-and-related-doctor-visits-in-network-with-no-cost-sharing-through-june-15-2020/

For members who have other questions regarding their Pension and Health benefits, the Plans’ staff is available to assist you, and can be reached at Participant Services at 323-866-2200 extension 401; or toll free at (877) 866-2200.

For members who begin experiencing financial emergencies or hardship, there are resources available to you including the Directors Guild Foundation which offers confidential interest-free loans to members in need (email: Foundation@dga.org). Additionally, the Motion Picture Television Fund (MPTF) remains fully committed to its mission of helping the entertainment industry workforce, and is available to provide financial assistance and case management to those experiencing hardship related to coronavirus including production shutdowns, work slowdowns, layoffs or other issues. The MPTF can be reached at 323-634 3888.

WE WILL WEATHER THIS STORM TOGETHER
As the coronavirus situation evolves, your Guild is working overtime to help provide you with some stability in these difficult times. While the days ahead may seem cloudy, we should all be comforted in knowing that our work will continue to be highly in demand by billions around the globe. All of the creations you’ve worked on are so necessary to entertain, and will provide relief to so many. We are so proud to represent you.

And again, please know we are working hard on your behalf. Do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are here for you. And we will be responding to your needs. In the meantime, please keep checking the coronavirus section of our website (accessible directly from our homepage at www.dga.org), for the latest developments.

We hope you and your families remain safe.

Thomas Schlamme
President

Russell Hollander
National Executive Director



March 12, 2020

Dear Members:

As we continue to monitor fast-developing state and local guidance in Los Angeles and New York related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we have made the decision to cancel all DGA screenings, events, and Committee meetings. For the time being, Board and Council meetings will be considered on a case-by-case basis – and if they move forward, will be conducted in a restricted capacity with only Board or Council members, alternates and limited executive staff in attendance.

As mentioned in our previous communication, this is a dynamic and fast-changing situation. We will continue to monitor developments from relevant agencies, and provide updates as warranted.



March 11, 2020

Dear Members:

The safety of our members, staff, guests and greater community is of paramount importance to the DGA. In recent weeks, as news of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) quickly developed, the Guild put in place a rapid response team to closely monitor and adopt the most up-to-date guidance and information as provided by the Centers for Disease Control, state and local agencies, medical experts, and the DGA-Producer Health Plan. The following provides information about some necessary changes the DGA is implementing across its operations in light of this serious issue, while also minimizing disruptions to Guild business and operations. As the situation is fast-evolving, additional changes may be implemented in the near-future, and we will continue to keep you informed through email and website communications.

Your Employment and Working Conditions

As always, your Guild is here to advocate for you. We’ve outreached to industry employers to be kept apprised of their production and safety plans and policies. It is expected that all productions and workplaces should incorporate the latest guidance from the CDC, state and local authorities in order to minimize the possibility of virus transmission. These currently include: policies to ensure employees stay home when sick or exposed to others who have the virus; and appropriate steps regarding travel to and from high-risk areas. Up-to-date CDC recommendations are available on the agency’s website at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

For members who have concerns about their employment and working conditions, we urge you to speak up, and immediately raise any concerns with your employer. The DGA is also a resource. Members can contact DGA Assistant Executive Director Steven Knauss at (310) 289-5326/SKnauss@dga.org or speak to their Field Representative, who can refer them to appropriate resources.

DGA Los Angeles and New York Operations

In light of cases of COVID-19 expanding throughout the U.S. and globally, the DGA has also implemented other protocols to help keep our home bases in New York and Los Angeles healthy, safe and operational:  

  1. The Guild is monitoring daily guidance on group gatherings, has canceled non-critical meetings, and will limit or cancel future events as deemed necessary. The situation is quickly evolving, and we will continue to re-assess plans and communicate accordingly. Please check the Guild website at www.dga.org for ongoing updates.
  2. The Guild has also implemented staff policies instituting the CDC, state and local recommendations described above, and adopted heightened building maintenance measures including additional janitorial staff for regular disinfecting of high-touch surfaces as well as conference rooms and theaters before and following meetings and screenings; ample availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes for workspaces; and new messenger and delivery protocols.
  3. The following protocols have also been enacted for all individuals entering the DGA’s Los Angeles and New York buildings:
  • If individuals come to the DGA and appear unwell, they will be asked to leave.
  • Individuals who have traveled to the CDC’s list of Level 2 or 3 countries in the past 14 days are prohibited from entering the building at this time.
  • If individuals have been exposed to someone sick with Coronavirus, or are exhibiting flu-like symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath, they are prohibited from entering the building at this time.

This is a dynamic and fast-changing situation. We will continue to monitor updates from relevant agencies, and will continue to provide updates as warranted. For additional information or updates on developments and recommended safety precautions, visit the websites for the CDC and World Health Organization.