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NEW YORK – New York City is world-famous for its thriving nightlife, complete with bars, restaurants and cabaret shows. But what happens when there is nowhere, or no one to perform to?
Marti Gould Cummings is a popular New York City drag artist who makes a living performing in bars and clubs around the city. But work has dried up because of the COVID-19 shutdown – and there’s no cash coming in.
“I’m very scared about money. How the rent is going to get paid, come May? When you’re a drag queen, you’re a 1099, so you get paid when you show up for the gig. And when there’s no gigs there’s no income. So I think that’s where a lot of the anxiety comes from,” Cummings said.
To help make ends meet, Cummings has been performing online routines with a Venmo account on screen so virtual audiences can transfer over some tips. Cummings also sees this crisis as a time to help fellow New Yorkers. The performer is actually running for City Council in the 7th District, and is raising money for charities like the Ali Forney Center – an organization that supports LGBTQ homeless youth.
“The homeless shelters don’t close down in this time, you know, they’re still open and, and they need help. Now more than than ever,” Cummings said.
Cummings is just one of countless New Yorkers who can use help during this time, and one new platform is providing just that. Solidarity 4 Service assists people like Marti who work in the nightlife and service industry. It was co-founded by Jenice Acosta and Carlyn Cowen. The two met seven years ago working at a restaurant.
“If you want to help someone out, it takes you to a database of people that have lost jobs due to COVID-19 whether in the restaurant industry, gig work, artists, freelancers, and you can donate to them directly,” said Cowen.
And the co-founders say it’s just as easy to make a list asking for help yourself; be it financial assistance or even a temporary job. No questions asked.
“There is no verification process. We trust that individuals who are taking the time to go out there and fill this out, are actually in need of support. Donors can directly go in and read the stories and donate to who they choose to,” said Acosta.
Since its creation a couple of weeks ago, Solidarity 4 Service has raised more than sixteen thousand dollars for New Yorkers.
“[People have] been able to fill their prescriptions that they urgently needed, they’ve been able to buy groceries that they needed, they were able to pay bills that were past due,” Cowen said.
To donate or even post that you need help, you can visit the website s4s.nyc.
On Sept. 1, Attorney General Maura Healey gave the go-ahead to a ballot question that, if approved by voters, would maintain gig workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, as independent contractors.
At the same time, Healey and her office continue to spearhead a lawsuit against Uber and Lyft that accuses the rideshare companies of denying benefits to workers — whom she believes should be classified as employees, not contractors, under Massachusetts law.
On GBH’s Boston Public Radio segment “Meet the AG” Tuesday afternoon, host Jim Braude asked Healey to clarify the two simultaneous actions.
“We better be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Healey said. “Under the state constitution, there’s a process that allows regular folks to go ahead and get things on a ballot for a vote, and that happens every year … There may be litigation, there may not be litigation, but that’s just the hat that I wear as attorney general.”
Healey noted that her job is to review the ballot question’s language and to see whether or not it satisfies the legal requirements to make the ballot, regardless of her personal preference.
The ballot question garnered much attention in recent months as supporters — including a coalition of app-based businesses like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart — argued that by keeping workers as independent contractors, the workers would be able to have more freedom with their job and set a minimum earnings guarantee.
Opponents of the ballot question — like Healey — have said that it would continue to allow gig economy employers to provide less security for those who work for these companies. Throughout the pandemic, these companies have seen pushback from both gig economy workers and users on the treatment of employees.
“As the economy grows, and work and the type of jobs change, there’s something they have to abide by,” Healey said. “We need to continue to treat workers fairly in this country, we need to make sure they’re not exploited.”
Healey’s lawsuit, which was first announced in July 2020, asserts that rideshare drivers and similar workers should qualify as employees rather than independent contractors under Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws.
In the lawsuit, Healey said her fair labor team determined that, under state law, gig workers should have access to minimum wage, earned sick time and other benefits and labor rights an employee would have. In March, the Suffolk Superior Court denied Uber and Lyft’s motion to dismiss Healey’s lawsuit.
“Yes, gig workers and the gig economy are super convenient for all of us as consumers, right. There’s a price for that. And as we move forward with this gig economy, certain principles have got to abide. That’s why we have employment laws here in Massachusetts, and that’s why I’m in court against Uber and Lyft,” she said.
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The pandemic isn’t crushing the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s fuelling it.
People normally tied to a desk or working double shifts used lockdown to launch side hustles, often out of necessity. And some have turned those side gigs into full-fledged businesses.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 427,842 new business applications were filed in August 2021 alone. That figure was 288, 026 in August 2019.
While a side gig can be spontaneous, growing a legit business requires research, planning and organization. Otherwise, your fledgling enterprise could crash and burn in a couple of years.
These basic but essential steps can help you take things to the next level and give your new venture a shot at staying power.
There are six common types of business entities: sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, C corporation, S corporation and limited liability company. The option you choose determines how your business is taxed, as well as who is financially responsible if your business is sued.
Entrepreneurs often default to sole proprietorship because it’s the easiest, but it’s also the riskiest, says Nellie Akalp, CEO and co-founder of corpnet.com, a document filing service that helps streamline the business formation process for entrepreneurs.
“There is no registration required nor are there corporate requirements,” Akalp says. But “there is no legal separation from the company, so the sole proprietor is personally responsible for any debts or liabilities.”
Registering as an LLC or corporation is more expensive and requires more paperwork, but it shields your personal assets from lawsuits.
Mixing business and personal finances can get messy, especially when it comes to filing taxes or securing a business loan. Open a business checking account to keep business income and expenses organized and easily accessible.
Look for a business account that has low or no monthly fees and fits your business needs in terms of transaction and deposit limits.
A business credit card can also help you track expenses and identify tax deductions. Plus, you can earn rewards, like cash back on gas, office supplies and business consulting services.
No more manual spreadsheets or shoeboxes full of receipts; scale up to an accounting software that can do some of the heavy lifting for you, like tracking cash flow, managing invoices and generating reports.
Expect a learning curve with any new system, but know that it will help your operation run more smoothly. The right accounting software can also give you deeper insights into your business and help you identify weak points and opportunities to save money.
“Accounting is the language of business, so invest time and money into understanding how to do your books,” says Danetha Doe, founder of Money and Mimosas, a financial education platform for independent contractors, freelancers and small-business owners. “As a business owner, learning how to manage your company’s finances, read profit and loss statements, and understanding cash flows will make you a better entrepreneur.”
Your side hustle may have started organically, but turning it into a full-fledged business requires research and planning.
Sketch out short – and long-term goals for your business, along with a sales plan, financial projections and potential roadblocks. Be realistic, set specific targets and spell out how you plan to reach them.
Building a business plan gives you a road map for how to grow your business. It also shows lenders you’ve done your homework should you need to secure a business loan.
Need help with your business plan? Turn to your local Small Business Development Center. These outposts are run by the U.S. Small Business Administration and offer free business consulting services.
Entrepreneurs, by nature, wear many hats. But you don’t need to wear all the hats.
Outsourcing some aspects of your business frees you up to focus on other things, like customer service or product development.
Not hip to social media? Consider hiring someone to build and manage your business’s presence on Instagram, TikTok and the like.
Do tax forms make your eyes cross? Invest in a certified public accountant to file for you.
“CPAs may be more expensive than doing taxes on your own, but it will be done right,” says John Pham, founder of The Money Ninja, a personal finance website. “Plus, they will maximize your tax deductions, which will most likely give you a higher return than the cost of a CPA.”
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