News & Updates

🦠 Like the rest of Philly, our coworking space is temporarily closed due to COVID19.
Read more, and stay safe out there: https://indyhall.org/covid19

News & Updates

We must work to change the system

I shared this post with the Indy Hall community this morning. It is not perfect, but it is sincere.

In the hopes that it might help others take action, I’ve decided to share it. ❤️


For the last several days I’ve been unsure what to write, or even if I should, but silence is in part how we got here. So I will speak only for myself, but hopefully, with thoughts and feelings and actions that others in our community share in solidarity.

Ahead of everything else, I want to acknowledge and address the pain and sadness and anger that many people are feeling, not just over the last week but for much much longer. I see that you are hurt and angry, and I’m here for you. More than anything, I’m listening and prepared to help.

I’ll echo something that I shared early in the pandemic that informed our choice to temporarily close our coworking space even before it was mandated:

Buildings and businesses can be rebuilt. Human lives cannot.

For white people like me, the damage on the streets hurts in part because it feels “close to home.” It feels like something we solve quickly, by assisting with cleanup or contributing to a business recovery fund.

But for Black people in our community, “close to home” is a clip showing a person who looks like them (or their parent or sibling or child or cousin or friend) being murdered by a cop. And for that, there is no cleanup or business recovery fund…only a justice system that does not deal fair penalties.

This system should not exist, but it does, and was built this way.

I believe that Black lives matter, and that “not being racist” is still too passive a stance to take. In order to truly believe and live the virtues and values of Indy Hall, it is a moral imperative that we work actively to end racism.

(Sidenote: upon re-reading those virtues and values, some omissions are glaring, or critically unfulfilled. More on that below.)

Feeling more compelled to clean the streets after the riots than to do something serious (let alone anything) about the system that incited the riot in the first place…that is the problem our Black friends and neighbors are facing.

So I am choosing to be anti-racist: to work as hard as I can to confront and fight against that system, and always remember that it is the reason behind the peaceful protests that began yesterday.

Through this view, it becomes maddening that the damaged buildings and businesses are getting more attention than the message of the protests. Damage to our city could have been avoided by having a system that supports and protects Black people instead of one that kills them.

Yes, I will allow myself a moment to be saddened by the physical damage to parts of the city I love. But I will stay focused on the reasons that the protests are happening in the first place instead. I love our whole city, and I want our whole city to be better for everyone in it.

Our Indy Hall community is also a system. We aim to encourage and inspire each other to be the best versions of each other and to put the best of ourselves out into the world. We solve problems and we do it together. In theory, our system should be able to confront this problem.

But our community’s system needs work, too. Not gonna mince words here: our membership is overwhelmingly white in a city whose population is not. No matter how good our intentions of being welcoming to all, something is off here and I know we can do better.

To spark your ideas and commitments, I’ll lead with my own.

Not being “together” due to the pandemic makes this whole thing even harder, but I believe it is both possible and necessary, and anti-racism will need to continue long beyond a coronavirus vaccine.

I’m not sure exactly what that work looks like, but I want to hear your ideas and your commitments. Here are some of mine:

  • To listen more than I talk (does that make this post ironic? maybe), and to better use my platforms to create space for more voices that need to be heard.
  • To educate myself, and to actively find and follow voices of people who are different from me so I can listen and seek to understand. The anti-racism guides linked below have been significantly helpful, and come highly recommended by a lot of the black voices that I follow and learn from. If you have resources that you have found helpful, I would welcome their addition.
  • To give people grace and offer support to find their own understanding, rather than attempt to convince them or bludgeon them with facts. This takes time, and is uncomfortable. But avoiding it isn’t an option.
  • To find ways to use my voice and platform for good here at home in Philadelphia, my home. To get involved in direct and collective action to change laws and policy while keeping Black voices centered, and in particular to ask community leaders and activists questions like “how can I help you?” and “where is my influence, whatever it may be, most useful?” I know I need guidance on this, so suggestions are welcome.

This list alone isn’t everything. But it’s laying the groundwork for more concrete actions now and choosing better actions going forward.

For people who are seeking out ways to educate yourselves, and to make a difference today, I have listed some resources below that others have shared with me.

For those of you and those you love who are hurting right now, please know that I am here however you need. I will listen, and do the work.

And I know I’m not the only one in the Indy Hall community who feels this way.

We are, and can be, and will be, a part of creating a better system.

We must be. Black Lives Matter.

I love you all very much. I support you. My phone is on if you need something, or just want to talk and have someone listen.

Alex

P.S. If you’d find it helpful to have a space to process your thoughts and feelings, starting this week I’m facilitating weekly “Red/Yellow/Green” sessions on Wednesdays at 12pm and this week, I’ll host an additional one on Monday at 5pm. You’re welcome to sit in silently or participate actively, however is useful for you.

Resources to educate yourself

Immediate Actions

Neither of these actions are enough on their own, but they are necessary and useful.


Special thank you to the community members who reviewed this for clarity and contributed resources, especially Black friends who have gone above and beyond to guide me. I’m forever grateful.

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Feeling confused or overwhelmed by all this online stuff?

Feeling confused or overwhelmed by all this online stuff? 

We know remote tools are new for a lot of people, and we don’t want anyone to feel left out if you’re not familiar. 

There are a wide range of people who join our Indy Hall community. Some people – especially those of you on remote teams – are already very familiar with popular tech tools like Slack and Zoom. (Also, what a silly bunch of names these apps have!) We’re learning new things from those folks all the time.

However now is a good time for us ALL to remember that not everyone’s used to, or comfortable, with video chat. Learning new tools can be confusing and frustrating. 

With that in mind, we’ve compiled some info that we hope will help you engage with online experiences, whether that’s with Indy Hall or off in the world wide web!

Here are two tools that Indy Hall is using a LOT and what they are:

Zoom is kinda like facetime but WAY more powerful and supports groups better. It works really well on Apple and Windows computers, and even on mobile phones (iOS and Android). It’s free to install https://zoom.us/download

Once Zoom is installed, following any Zoom link on that device (computer or mobile) will automatically take you to the correct group video chat. (Some chats require passwords, so if you aren’t sure message the host ahead of time. They’ll probably make sure you have the password if it’s necessary)

Slack is a text chat tool, so it’s a bit like texting BUT has different rooms to organize conversations (and people) into interests, topics, and kinds of conversations. It’s great for sharing links, asking quick questions, and friendly banter. 

❤️ A bit of Indy Hall “Netiquette”

Whether you’re an online veteran or brand new to internet spaces, Internet Etiquette (aka “Netiquette” is something that we can all be mindful to observe. This is true always, but especially true right now. 

First and foremost, offline rules apply online. Our code of conduct is fully transferable online. And when in doubt, don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. That’s that. 

Note: We highly recommend thinking through guidelines and how to communicate them if you are hosting an online community

Second, please try to post with context. Especially with the instinct to share every link and news snippet that happens, we’d like to avoid a situation where our online spaces are inundated with links…but no discussion. That’s a bit like running into a room, saying a random sentence, and walking away. Not exactly the friendliest interaction, especially when the link may include stressful news!

So if you have a link you wish to share, that is 100% what these spaces are for but please take a moment to share it with context. What does this link make you think or feel? Does it raise a question for discussion? Does it just make you happy? Will others find it useful, and if so, who?

Taking the time to share with CONTEXT helps make online conversations more like in-person ones. It takes some practice but is a good communication habit in general. 

Third, ask for consent before sharing private conversations in public. Even though we’re connecting on the internet, the Indy Hall spaces are typically member-only spaces by default. 

If you want to share a screenshot of what someone said, or a group photo of a gathering on zoom, that’s okay BUT please ask permission from the people appearing in your image first! 

Most people will appreciate being asked and quickly say yes, but some have good reasons for preferring to keep their presence out of public spaces and will appreciate even MORE that you asked first. In most cases, you can still share as long as you crop or cover part of the image. 

We hope these notes are helpful and empowering. We invite you to join us, (test your new skills!)

Whether you want to dip your toe or dive right in. We’re here to help any way we can. ❤️

Have other netiquette suggestions? We’d love to hear them! Email us at team@indyhall.org

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Open Hall like never before. You’re invited!

Did you ever come to Indy Hall on a First Friday? If you’re like me, it probably feels like a lifetime ago! Hopefully, you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. 

We skipped April’s First Friday “Open Hall” as we had just closed our coworking space in response to the virus. In the last few weeks, a LOT has changed, but thankfully the things that have always made Indy Hall tick haven’t gone away. 

We’re just doing them online!

We’re still staying connected to each other and supporting one another, maybe even more in some ways. Our members continue to find new ways to lift each other up. 

But we miss meeting new friends (like you!) 

Open Hall was our monthly opportunity to invite members and friends to spend some or all of their day together. It was a mix of the “shared energy” of working in a cafe or other shared space, but with a bit of extra structure to help people connect. 

And honestly, we’ve been a bit stumped on how to fit that piece into the online puzzle.

So we are going to try something new, and you’re invited!

This Friday, May 1st we’re hosting our first-ever “Open Hall @ Home.” 

We’re experimenting with a blend of online tools and ways to come together to work and connect. If all goes well, it will let us share the best parts of our community’s online experience for a special day. 

We may not be able to recreate everything we miss about Open Hall, but we are excited to see what we can do and create some new experiences, too!

💚 Guests: find more info and RSVP here. (We have limited spots available for guests, so please RSVP if you can make it!)

💛 Indy Hall members: please RSVP here

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New PPP money approved, friendly bank for self-employed & small biz

Hey friends, some possibly good news for you.

If you’re not paying SUPER close attention to the news you might have missed that last night congress approved another half-trillion dollars in coronavirus relief, with includes a pool to help the small businesses like ours who couldn’t get their PPP applications in before the money ran out.

BTW: in case you you missed them, here are my previous updates on PPP loan confusion and Unemployment for the self employed/freelance community.

Another hot tip? Apply with Centric Bank.

I’m going to recommend trying an application with Centric Bank, even if you’ve applied with another bank AND/OR do not have an account with Centric.

👉 Centric Bank’s PPP page 👈

They’re a local/regional bank that specifically wants to work with truly small businesses, including self-employed people like us, even if you don’t have an account with them.

Note, there are NO penalties or risks applying through multiple banks…you’ll can only be approved by one, but whoever gets there first “wins.”

The official dates for accessing the new funds aren’t live yet, but banks like Centric are “pre-processing” applications so that they’re ready to submit to SBA as soon as they are allowed to again.

I personally began the process with them 2 days ago (I wanted to make sure it was decent before I recommended it) and have already been getting MUCH more personal communication than from any of the previous attempts.

Still not sure what you need to apply?

You might also want to look at this PDF “information sheet” which outlines the latest details of the program. Nothing really new is in here from previous updates, it’s just written in some the plainest language I’ve seen (though it’s still vague in some cases especially around self employment – that’s systemic).

The big thing for YOU to know is on page two:

Payroll costs can include:
For a sole proprietor or independent contractor: wages, commissions, income, or net earnings from self-employment, capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee.

My sources tell me that your best bet while working with centric is to pull together as MUCH of your 2019 finances as you possibly can to help demonstrate your average monthly income, even if you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes yet. That can include tax forms like client 1099s but also, bank statements, paid client invoices, whatever it is. Treat it like “building a case.” The banker at Centric you’re assigned to will have to figure out how to work with what you have.

But don’t lose focus on your business

Next Tuesday’s session will include a live demo of techniques you can use for Online Client Prospecting that Rob from Folyo.me uses to power his job board for freelance designers and how to apply it to your business.

RSVP and details are here, including a chance to have him use YOUR business as an example by filling out a brief survey linked on the event page.

Schedule a free 1-1 tour online.

Like what you see? Membership is just $20/month and we can help you get started right away.

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Update: Pennsylvania Unemployment for Freelancers is now available (kinda)

This morning I heard news that PA’s “PUA Portal” aka the unemployment claim registry for freelancers, gig-workers, and self-employed people is live for PA residents.

👉 4/20 UPDATES FROM PHILLY LEGAL ASSISTANCE

The link is below, but before you click:

1. The site is currently getting slammed with people trying to apply, so it is very slow and full of errors.

“Feels like using the internet on Dial Up” is something I’ve seen multiple people report.

2. The application includes a qualifying survey to make sure that you’re self employed, but I’ve heard that many people who SHOULD be eligible are being told by this survey they are not.

For example, I’ve heard from multiple sources that anybody who has any w2 status for any period of 2019 is being incorrectly identified by the system and being told to use the standard unemployment system. And that’s just one of several bugs. 

The good news is that this error appears to be temporary, so you might want to avoid frustration and try filling it out later when the site isn’t being crushed by applicants.

You might also try using your EIN (if you have one) instead of your social security number.

Other people are reporting that they’re able to finish the initial application, but the final step is to “file a bi-weekly claim” and that form is currently not working.

3. If your claim is accepted, your payment will be a percentage of your provable past income (details on the page of what qualifies as proof), with a minimum of $195/week and a maximum of $572/week. In addition to those base payments, the Federal Pandemic

Unemployment Compensation Program (FPUC) adds an additional $600/week ON TOP which will likely be paid out in a separate payment from the standard claim.

Note that these payments will specifically be added to payments dated back to the week of April 4th, while standard unemployment bi-weekly claims will be allowed to be retroactively claimed to January 27th.

That said, the extra $600/week is a federal program, which the federal government can decide to end that at any time.

Additional Updates from Philly Legal Assistance

“While the Department was trying to get this application out quickly to help the thousands of people waiting for PUA benefits, it was not ready for primetime and has experience significant glitches.  For example, the system is not letting through workers who have any W2 wages, it is telling them to go apply for regular UC.  That is hugely problematic as a large portion of PUA applicants are those who had insufficient wage history for UC, or are mostly self-employed/IC/gig workers with minimal W2 income.  The Department is aware of this problem and is working to fix it. 

For now, tell those who have W2 wages to WAIT and apply for PUA once the problem is fixed.  We will keep you updated and I believe the website above will be updated by DLI.

For workers who have been able to get through the application, there has been a lot of confusion with the questions.  We also know some people have struggled to upload documentation.

In better news, our understanding from DLI is that they expect anyone not eligible for UC (with the exception of undocumented workers) to be eligible for PUA.  Even workers who do not have a recent separation but are struggling to get back into the job market.  

As soon as the application is functional, we will be encouraging everyone to apply.

Some things to note: 

  • PUA eligibility is based on when someone lost their job, not when they applied for benefits (unlike regular UC).  So they will not lose benefits if they need to wait a little longer to apply.
  • If someone cannot upload documentation or does not have it at this time, that is okay.  Regulations allow applicants to provide documentation within 21 days (and there is a currently a request to extend it to 90 days).
    • If someone has no documentation of their earnings (like a cash worker), or had no earnings to report, they will automatically qualify for the lowest base rate of $195 per week.
  • Our understanding is the PUA system is spitting out a weekly benefit rate at the end that may not be accurate. We are waiting to hear back from the Department.
  • There are no PINs for PUA – the system has a username and password you must set up.
  • The PUA system is not yet set up for weekly filing.  You read that correctly, PUA will have weekly claims filing (but you are also able to file biweekly without the claim going inactive, it will simply let you claim two weeks).
  • PUA will have a much more accessible and information heavy claimant portal, but it will take a few days after an application is processed for anyone to be able to see real information in the portal.

Additionally: PUA is NOT a limited pool of funds like the PPP loans. The only caveat is that I’ve heard the automatic $600 weekly bonus is only authorized in the CARES act through a specific date, like July. 


More FAQs about this special program are answered here.


Ultimately, if you want to avoid staring at a “loading” indicator forever, or the endless frustration of errors that don’t make any sense (and that might be outright wrong), my advice is to wait a few days for them to iron out the bugs.


Official PUA Application 👇

🔗 https://www.uc.pa.gov/unemployment-benefits/file/Pages/Filing-for-PUA.aspx

I’ll keep this page updated with details that I hear, and expect that this portal will be fully operational very soon. Once it does, I hope this helps you find a bit of relief if you lost work or contracts in the last month, and buys you some time to get your solo business back on track.

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