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Coronavirus and the Arts

Coronavirus and the Arts

Written by: 
Evan Lowenstein

All forms of the arts have been dealt a savage blow with the advent of the Coronavirus.

Countless shows and gigs have been cancelled and many private and public art shows have closed down or gone online, leaving thousands of arts practitioners unemployed.

Compounding this crisis is the fact that artists are also mainly employed as casuals.  This work arrangement normally affords them some flexibility. The other side of the coin is the fact that these people are also financially vulnerable.

My colleague, Adam Micmacher, has called out the need for more government assistance for sole traders and the self-employed. I join him in expressing the need for the government to offer more direct assistance to arts practitoners, rather than just relying on the inefficiencies of the Centrelink Jobseeker program, that while generous enough is mind-boggingly hard to navigate.

While this program of assistance is a start, I would also like to emphasise the need to find a way where those self-employed and sole traders in the arts can be supported.

Certain countries overseas, such as Germany and the UK, have extended vast amounts of government funding to support the arts.

Germany has specifically included the arts sector in the $50 billion dollar recovery package; and the UK Arts Council has also announced massive funding to keep that sector alive.

In Australia, there is some room for optimism as States are ‘going it alone’ to support the arts:

Queensland has announced a $10.5 Million package to support arts organisations, mostly by offering arts organisations extensions of grant funding for small to medium arts bodies.

In addition, South Australia and the ACT have been generous with their funding programs.

For those seeking more information, please go to:

https://www.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/covid-19/richard-watts/states-step-up-to-with-funding-aid-as-coronavirus-impact-spreads-260075

 

At a national level, the Commonwealth government has announced measures to support a range of arts organisations, such as theatre companies, Aboriginal art centres, small performance venues and not-for-profits, who are eligible for payments of up to $100,000, with a minimum payment of $20,000.

These payments will provide cash flow support to help eligible businesses and not-for-profits – including creative and cultural businesses – stay operating and retain staff.

A loan guarantee scheme will also support small to medium-sized businesses. There are no charges for accessing the scheme, and it will be repayment-free for six months.

The maximum loan is $250,000, for a term of up to three years. Creative and cultural businesses are eligible to apply. More details can be found at the following website

https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus.

The Government, specifically through the Office of the Arts, has given some flexibility to the Australia Council and the way that the grants can be used and administered. See https://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/about/covid-19/

Although all these measures are well-considered and are indeed helpful and welcome, there is still not a lot for individual artists - be they visual, performing, musical or even back stage and support staff - who are also suffering immense hardship.

Therefore, I call on the government for an income support system similar to the UK where up to 80% of the wages are paid to those who have lost their jobs due to the mass cancellation of events, fairs, exhibitions and all other forums that have involved public gatherings.

 

 

Postscript

We are very pleased to learn that over the past week the Government has announced the JobKeeper scheme that seeks to address this issue by offering an income supplement of $1500 a fortnight. This is designed to specifically assist, wage earners but also includes the  self employed and sole traders that are involved in the arts

This addresses a lot of our concerns and is to be welcomed and applauded.

For more details go to : https://www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/JobKeeper-payment/