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State has plan to help workers affected by film hiatus

Production takes place on the series, “Godless,” Netflix pushed pause on its productions in New Mexico for two weeks. (Ursula Coyote/Netflix)

Pauses in entertainment production because of concerns over COVID-19 has caused temporary reduction of labor hours and business for related industries.

“We know that the film industry is poised to be one of the hardest hit from the COVID-19 emergency, as their work is project-dependent. New Mexico State will continue to work toward making sure we support the workforce in New Mexico and keep everyone informed throughout this emergency,” said Economic Development Department Director Alicia J. Keyes. “Our No. 1 concern is the health and safety of all New Mexicans.”

Liz Pecos, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 480 president, said that all employers in this jurisdiction have made the decision to halt production in varying degrees.

Last week, Netflix and NBCUniversal announced a two-week hiatus in production of current and upcoming projects.

“The decision to close shop for a few weeks, months or to stop production entirely is the decision of the employer and we are grateful for the safety measures taken by each employer to further prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Pecos said in a statement. “IATSE Local 480 is working closely with our International to advocate for federal assistance. IATSE President Matthew B. Loeb and the IATSE Political Department have been engaged in constant conversations with Congress about relief and pursuing legislation to provide economic support for members facing loss of income and benefits due to postponement or cancellation of work.”

New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions has a process to help all New Mexico residents, including those losing income in relation to the film industry, to receive up to $461 each week.

Even if an entertainment industry worker continues employment, but at a rate lower than $461 per week due to COVID-19, they may be able to receive unemployment insurance benefits to fill the gap.

This particular program, as of March 16, waives the standard work search requirement.

“We are happy to be working with IATSE 480 to make sure that the process is as smooth as possible for our film workers,” said Bill McCamley, Secretary of Workforce Solutions. “We will use every tool at our disposal to help in the upcoming days so that we can all get through this together.”

Pecos said IATSE Local 480 is working with the state to distribute information to members that will streamline the process of filing claims.

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