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LA Actors Are Losing Unemployment Benefits Because Of Past Roles

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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