Industry News

A Photographer’s Guide to Navigating the Stimulus Bill, Cancellations and More

April 2, 2020

By Jacqueline Tobin

© Shutterstock

IMPORTANT UPDATE 2/23/21: From the morning of February 24 to the evening of March 9 2021, only businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be able to apply for aid through the massive Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans that can be converted into grants if businesses keep paying workers. It is one of a series of steps the administration announced on Feb. 22 to get more aid to underserved businesses.

IMPORTANT UPDATE 4/30/20: Congress is about to release Phase 4 of the COVID-19 relief program. In a short update, PPA‘s CEO and CFO answer questions regarding the EIDL and PPP loans. Watch here.

IMPORTANT UPDATE 4/15/20: Economic Injury Disaster Loan/Grant (EIDL)

There has been a recent development in the release of information regarding the Economic Injury Disaster Loan/Grant (EIDL) process. On 4/14/20, early EIDL applicants began receiving emails that contained new information about this government assistance program.

The SBA did confirm the earlier rumors that the grant portion will be paid out at $1,000 per employee up to a maximum of $10,000. There is no word yet how this will impact sole proprietors and single-owner small businesses that have no employees but themselves.

Apparently, no grants will be distributed until a business moves forward and submits a FULL EIDL application. Filling out the initial online application apparently DOES NOT qualify you for the EIDL grant/advance like most businesses expected. You must move forward and apply for the FULL EIDL loan to receive the grant/advance. Some of the more relevant bullet points include the following details about the FULL EIDL loan, which is NOT FORGIVABLE:

  • Up to $2 million
  • 3.75% interest rate for businesses
  • Can be paid back in up to 30 years
  • The first payment is deferred for 1 year

You can find more timely and extended information about the update on
PP of A’s website.

As we all continue to self-isolate and socially distance ourselves from each other, this is hardly the time to feel like we can’t do more than just sit home biding our time. Quite the contrary, since the ramifications and long-term financial and economic effects of this pandemic is staggering, to say the least. This is a fluid situation with lots of moving parts, which means that every day, more advice, resources and information is being dispensed at an incredibly rapid pace and it can be overwhelming to try to keep up with all of it.

Wedding photographers and portrait photographers are grappling with this new reality in slightly different ways, and all are facing a slew of postponed and canceled events and assignments that will affect them through to the end of the year (or even longer). The good news is, help is out there.

[See our COVID-19 resource page for business information and creative inspiration that will help you rise to the occasion.]

Deciphering the CARES Act Bill and
Other Relief

To help you navigate your way through an incredibly stressful time, Rangefinder has compiled as many resources here as possible to help you break down and process all of the information that is out there right now, the most impactful being the groundbreaking $2 trillion stimulus package that the U.S. government recently passed—The CARES Act—that provides for direct payments to taxpayers, small business loans, enhancement of unemployment benefits, loans for hard-hit industries, provides funds for states and municipalities, business tax provisions, and funding for medical facilities. The CARES Act specifically allocates $350 billion to assist small businesses like yours. (Photographers with small business in the U.S who are seeking financial relief can find vital information here.)

In addition, the Treasury Department just issued further information and guidance on the loan programs available to small businesses under the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created to help businesses with expenses related to paid sick leave and family leave. The website provides information sheets for prospective borrowers and lenders, addressing various details of the PPP (i.e., SBA loan program) such as eligibility, application requirements, loan terms, and loan forgiveness. 

As Shootproof director of product marketing, Rachel LaCour Niesen, points out in an extremely thorough and well-executed piece on Shootproof’s blog“Why Should Photographers Care about the Cares Act”—this act is “an unprecedented lifeline for your photography business.”

And while it can be overwhelming to even try and process all the information that sounds like it can help , Fortune magazine has just published a handy guide by Lance Lambert on 8 Things to Know About the Paycheck Protection Program. Here you can find out what the qualifications are to apply, how much can be borrowed, what the interest rates are, and how long it will take to receive the loan.

According to the U.S. Treasury, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for paycheck protection starting on April 3, 2020. Independent contractors and those who are self-employed can start applying on April 10.

Also helpful right now, Professional Photographers of America published a guide for photographers and are updating it regularly. In it, among other things, you’ll find details about the federal relief packages and how to apply for benefits, including: how to apply for a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (click here), and information on the Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program, which allows small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 with less paperwork. These loans are set up to provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing and can be a term loans or used to bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster loan.

According to the Freelancers Union, all self-employed workers, contractors, government employees, individuals seeking part-time work, and workers who quit their job or can’t reach their place of work as a result of COVID-19 are among those eligible for unemployment benefits. Read more here.

To learn how to file for unemployment benefits in your state, click here.

Navigating Photo Contracts Amid Event and Other Job Cancellations

It’s doubtful that anyone would dispute how hard figuring out a client contract can be at times; now it’s even harder. Photo organizations like Professional Photographers of America (PPA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), American Photographic Artists (APA) and others help guide and advise its members with webinars on contracts, and have many helpful documents on the site for photographers to reference, including ASMP’s mid-March webinar with its General Counsel Thomas Maddrey entitled “Potential Business Ramifications of Coronavirus (COVID-19).” Maddrey covered a variety of topics, including cancellation clauses in photographer contracts, which are still relevant and helpful as the pandemic continues on. See the webinar here.

Lawyer Aaron M. Arce Stark, who has written a legal column for Rangefinder for the past couple of years, recently posted very helpful contract information as well, including the following articles: COVID-19: 3 Things to Do Now for Your Photo Business and Legal Take: Wedding Cancellations During the Outbreak.

Further Help & Resources

The popular online portfolio platform, Format, has set up The Photographer Fund to help photographers impacted by COVID-19. The company has set aside $25,000 to help photographers in desperate need of financial support.

Details on the Format website are as follows: Self-employed photographers from anywhere in the world are invited to apply for financial support. “You are not required to be a Format customer in order to apply, and at present, up to $500 will be given to those who are selected for financial help. Format acknowledges that up to $500 isn’t a huge amount, but our hope is that this helps independent photographers stay on their feet.”

Format advises that photographers start the process as soon as possible, as there’s a limited amount of people the company can support. You can visit Format‘s website for full details and to submit your application.

For more advice, insight and references, or to read how photographers are coping right now, check out these article links from Rangefinder, Fortune Magazine, Photo Shelter, Lensrentals and more: