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The Aspen Public Radio Newsroom has chosen to focus on four specific issues for our election coverage: the COVID-19 pandemic, social justice/representation, climate change and land use/management.These issues were among the most important to voters, according to a Pew Research poll in August 2020. We also chose them because they are important to people who live in the Roaring Fork Valley. That’s especially true as many have seen the economy, and their livelihoods, take a hit because of the pandemic, the growing Latino population in the region hasn’t had someone from their community holding a countywide governmental office, wildfires have been ferocious this season in the state, and the oil and gas industry employs many people.Our central question while reporting this series was “What Can I Expect From My Government?” We set out to find a diverse group of people who could tell us their answers to that question.Our election series is scheduled for Oct. 20-23. You'll be able to hear the stories during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. All our content will also be available here. Many of the other stories you’ll find here are from our reporting partners. We wanted to provide information about Colorado's key ballot initiatives and races, and also share details about how you can take part in this historic election year.

One Local Freelancer Says She’s Voting For ‘Sanity’ This Election

Courtesy Lindsay Jones
Lindsay Jones is a Carbondale based artist who represents a growing part of the American workforce—freelancers. She'll be voting in this November's upcoming election.";

Before the pandemic, freelancers accounted for about a quarter of the workforce, and that number has only grown since COVID-19 hit. Millions more have joined the gig economy this year as employers have shed part and full-time positions—over a third of American workers now say they’re part of the gig economy. Some economists say that within 10 years, half the American workforce will be freelance workers.

So, what do freelancers in the Roaring Fork Valley think about this year’s election?

Local freelance graphic designer and illustrator Lindsay Jones spoke to Aspen Public Radio about her thoughts before she casts her ballot this November for the first installment in our election series “What Can I Expect From My Government?”


The Ups and Downs of Freelancing

For most artists, writers, performers and other creatives, freelancing is just how the industry works, but there’s hardly a safety net. Freelancers don’t get traditional benefits like paid time off and sick leave, and they’re also often paid per project instead of per hour. 

"I lost every job I was working on in March. A lot of my work comes from the fashion industry, and fashion is not a priority right now."

 “You work your butt off and you are not guaranteed a paycheck from that labor,” said Jones.

Instead of splitting health insurance costs with an employer, freelancers also are responsible for shouldering monthly premiums themselves. Some freelancers get relief through tax credits available through the Affordable Care Act. Jones says those tax credits put health insurance within her reach for the first time in five years.

“I know in this valley the cost was exorbitant for people that had to pay for it,” she said. “I know it wasn’t a perfect system and still isn’t, but for me that was the first time I was insured.”

Polling by the freelance platform Upwork and the Freelancers Union in 2019 showed that about a quarter of freelancers pay for their own insurance—with or without tax credits depending on income—out of pocket. Forty percent of survey respondents tap Medicaid or Medicare for insurance.

In California, the issue is on the ballot as Proposition 22, which would codify certain independent workers with a minimum safety net in terms of benefits. No such ballot measure is up for a vote in Colorado or the Roaring Fork Valley, but freelancers like Jones are paying attention to what candidates say about the ACA. 

The Pandemic Effect

So, how has the pandemic affected all of this? Aside from adding more workers to the gig economy that had part or full-time work before the pandemic, it’s made finding work harder for existing freelance workers.

"The relief was very difficult to get a hold of, but when I finally did I was so thankful for it. I didn’t lose hope because I know that I know how to work finances so I’m not struggling to eat because as a freelancer you don’t always know where your next job is going to come from.”

“I lost every job I was working on in March,” said Jones. “A lot of my work comes from the fashion industry, and fashion is not a priority right now.”

The pandemic has also made it harder for her to find new jobs, since she typically networks at large trade shows like Denver’s annual Outdoor Retailer.

“I go there and I get my hustle on,” she said. “I visit companies’ booths that I would love to work with and I ask if they’d be interested in working with a freelance textile designer.”

The government stimulus package passed by Congress in March was the first ever that included financial relief for freelance workers, and Jones was eligible for funds. She says that being a freelance artist has made her a savvy financial planner, but seeing what a difference government relief has made for millions of Americans has highlighted, for her, how fragile so many people’s financial situations were before the pandemic.

“The relief was difficult to get a hold of, but I was so thankful when I did,” she said. “I didn’t lose hope because I know how to work finances so I’m not struggling to eat because as a freelancer you don’t always know where your next job is going to come from.”

Jones says that while she’s seen a dip in income, she’s optimistic about changing consumer spending over the course of the pandemic. Surging bike sales, for one, have benefited some of the local companies that hire her for design work.

Credit Courtesy Lindsay Jones
Jones says working from home during the pandemic hasn't been a difficult transition for her as a freelancer.

A chunk of her income has also come from local government funds this year. The Basalt Public Arts Commission, or BPAC, tapped her to design a mural for their new outdoor dining barriers in Willits this summer. That led to another commission for a mural at a residence in Los Angeles. She drove there this fall with her husband, and visited family in rural parts of Oregon along the way. That’s also given her some optimism as she casts her vote.

“It’s easy to think that all hell is breaking loose everywhere you go,” she said. “Living in the valley I feel a bit stuck in a bubble and to know people that are still civil out there … even though things aren’t great, they’re also not as bad as some people want you to believe.”


Whether other Roaring Fork Valley voters share her concerns will be left to the ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 3.



Pueden encontrar la versión en español aqui.


Kirsten was born and raised in Massachusetts, and has called Colorado home since 2008. She moved to Vail the day after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011. Before relocating to Basalt in 2020, she also spent a year living in one of Aspen’s sister cities, Queenstown, New Zealand.
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