DGA Coronavirus Update: Latest Information for Members

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March 25, 2020

A message 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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 until 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.

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

Russell Hollander
National Executive Director