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LA Actors Are Losing Unemployment Benefits Because Of Past Roles

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The marquee of the Nuart movie theater in West L.A. on April 11, 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (Elina Shatkin/LAist)
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The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for Hollywood film and TV productions, and now some out-of-work actors are losing hundreds of dollars a week in unemployment benefits.

“It feels like we're being singled out for the way we get paid,” said Hope Shapiro, who has played small parts on shows like Will & Grace, House and 2 Broke Girls.

When those shows get syndicated, Shapiro earns residuals — sometimes just a few cents, sometimes a couple hundred dollars. She said she used to like opening her mailbox and finding those residuals — but now, she dreads it. Recently, residuals totalling $111 in one week were enough to make her lose close to $700 in weekly benefits.

“My pride in having done these jobs is now, ‘Oh God, please don't give me any money for having done them, because I still need to feed my family.’”

Other states such as New York don’t count residuals against weekly unemployment benefits. The actors’ union SAG-AFTRA is now lobbying California to change its rules.
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