COVID-19 Supports For Artists And Those Working In The Arts Sector (Press Statement – DCHG)

The following press statement was released last night in summary of the Government’s supports for the arts during the COVID-19 crisis.

VAI is in constant communications with both Arts Councils and the Department regarding the range of supports needed at this time across the visual arts sector, as well as looking at the medium and long term impacts of the crisis. Through this open communications, we are able to offer insight into the areas of concern expressed by individual artists through our Help Desks and Advice services, and provide answers back to visual artists through our normal channels. We will continue to do this, and as we receive updates, we will continue to update the advisory note linked to on the front of our website, as well as through our eBulletins and our online services. As always, our advice and support services are available to all visual artists by phone, email, website, and most recently during our online events. Through these we are assisting visual artists in their understanding of what is available, and offer guidance when they experience difficulties.

Press Statement

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Measures to assist those impacted by the COVID-19 crisis

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht recognises that COVID-19, and the public health measures necessary to slow the spread of the virus, have had an unprecedented effect on the cultural sector. The response of the Government has been to introduce measures to support workers and businesses affected by the COVID-19 that apply to all sectors of the economy, including those who work in the culture sector.

The measures introduced to date include:

  • the COVID-19 Income Support Scheme, incorporating:
  • the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment;
  • the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme;
  • an Enhanced Illness Benefit payment;
  • measures to assist with housing costs; and,
  • measures to support businesses.

Within the cultural sector, measures taken to date to support the sector by the Department, the Arts Council and Screen Ireland have focused on:

  • bringing forward the payment of grants awarded this year to ensure financial commitments can be met and waiving eligibility requirements which no longer apply due to the COVID-19 crisis; and,
  • an initiative to support artistic and creative life during the COVID-19 crisis, details of which may be found here.

The Department is continuing to work with the Arts Council and Screen Ireland to assess and measure the effects of COVID-19 on the cultural sector.

The Department of Culture Heritage & Gaeltacht have set up an Arts Unit and VAI members, artists and people in the arts sector in general who have questions about the Government supports available to them, can email their question to artsunit@chg.gov.ie and include a telephone number. The Arts Unit will try to respond to them by email or phone as soon as possible.

Cross-Government measures

1. What income supports are available to cultural workers?

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
If a worker has lost their job or been temporarily laid-off as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and had been in employment or self-employment immediately before 13 March 2020, they may be eligible for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, which has been, since 24 March 2020, been payable at a rate of €350 per week by the Department Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

This payment also applies if a person is a part-time worker or is self-employed and their trading income has ceased due to COVID-19.
A self-employed person may, if their trading income has collapsed to the extent that they are available to take up other full-time employment if it was offered to them, receive a payment of €350 per week for so long as they are available to take up other work. Individuals should contact the DEASP Income Support Helpline for COVID-19 (01 2481398 or 1890 800 024) directly with queries regarding eligibility for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Details of this payment may be found at gov.ie/deaspcovid19 and answers to frequently asked questions prepared by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection can be found here.

Jobseeker’s Benefit
Jobseeker’s Benefit is a payment for people between 18 and 66 who become fully or partly unemployed and have paid enough pay-related social insurance (PRSI) contributions. A recipient may claim an additional increase for an adult dependent and child dependents. The Government increased the rate for an adult dependent to €147 on March 2020.
The Jobseeker’s Benefit will be higher than the €350 per week COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment if a recipient has at least one adult and one child dependent, or, at least four child dependents.
More details on the Jobseeker’s Benefit may be found here.

Short-time Work Support
Employees of businesses that need to reduce hours or days worked can avail of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Short-time Work Support.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance
Workers who are laid off temporarily or put on short-time working and who still face financial distress can apply for additional emergency income support, in the form of Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA), which is a means-tested payment.

Details on the SWA can be found here.

2. What income supports are available to cultural workers who are self-isolating or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19?
Enhanced Illness Benefit
When a worker is told to self-isolate by a doctor or the HSE or has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) by a doctor, they can apply for an enhanced Illness Benefit payment. Since 24 March 2020, the personal rate of this payment has been increased to €350 per week.

Details of on the new enhanced Illness Benefit payment may be found at gov.ie/deaspcovid19

3. What wage subsidies are available to companies?

Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme

On 24 March 2020, the Government announced the introduction of the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme, which is operated by the Revenue Commissioners. The Scheme has been operational from 26 March, with a transitional phase to allow for the replacement the Employer COVID Refund Scheme that operated from 15 to 25 March.
During the transitional phase, the Scheme provides a temporary wage subsidy of 70% of take home pay up to a maximum weekly tax free amount of €410 per week.

The Scheme is available to employers from all sectors (excluding the public service and non-commercial semi-state sector) whose business activities are being adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The scheme is expected to last a period of 12 weeks, starting from 26 March 2020.

Details and detailed guidance on the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme may be found at revenue.ie

4. What measures are in place to assist with housing security and housing costs?

Measures for tenants
From 27 March 2020, new emergency measures were introduced through Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 to protect tenants during the three-month COVID-19 emergency period by temporarily banning evictions and freezing rents for three months.
Details on these new measures, including income supports available for certain people living in private rental accommodation, may be found here.
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has indicated that Housing Assistance Payment will not be affected due to COVID-19. More information can be found here.

5. What measures have been introduced to support businesses?
Supports for working capital
The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation have published a comprehensive list of supports for business here. Measures to support business have focused on supporting working capital through the provision of loans.

Commercial rates deferral
On 20 March, the Government agreed with local authorities that they should agree to defer rates payments due from the most immediately impacted businesses until end-May. This measure will be implemented by each local authority in its own area. More details are available here.

Measures taken by the financial sector
On 18 March, the Minister for Finance outlined measures undertaken by the financial sector to support individuals and businesses impacted by COVID-19 which can be found here.

Culture sector measures
On 12 March, following the announcement of restriction measures necessary to protect public health which included the closure of cultural institutions, the Minister convened a meeting of the National Cultural Institutions (including the Abbey Theatre), the Arts Council and Screen Ireland.

Arts Council measures
The Arts Council announced a range of immediate measures in response to the public health restrictions including:
• that it would honour all funding commitments that have been made to organisations (i.e. Arts Council Strategic Funding, Arts Centre Funding, Arts Grant Funding and the Festival Investment Scheme, Round 1);
• that there would be no financial penalties for organisations/individuals unable to deliver key activities/key services arising from the impact of the COVID-19; and,
• that grantees could draw down up to 90% of their funding commitment, with immediate effect to assist in honouring immediate financial commitments.

The Arts Council stated that funded organisations should prioritise their own payments to artists. More details may be found here.

On 3 April, as part of measures announced by the Minister to support cultural and creative life, the Arts Council announced a €1 million new scheme, the Arts Council COVID-19 Crisis Response Award, to support the creation of new artistic work and its dissemination online for the public benefit, full details of which are available here.

The Department has been supporting these measures through:
• the bringing forward of the annual funding of the Arts Council to support their efforts to support the cash-flow of grantees; and,
• the allocation of an additional €500,000 to the Arts Council to support the Arts Council COVID-19 Crisis Response Award.

Screen Ireland

On 18 March Screen Ireland announced a range of measures, including the following commitments:
• to provide 90% funding upfront on all development loans to Irish screenwriters and production companies through to 31st May 2020;
• that existing development and production loan offers which are due to expire in the coming months will all be extended to 31st May 2020;
• to provide additional marketing and distribution support for upcoming Irish film and TV releases during this period; and,
• to continue to provide skills development opportunities for industry practitioners, with Screen Skills Ireland delivering some of its planned activity for 2020 online free-of-charge over the next 6-10 weeks.

More details on these measures can be found here.

Culture Ireland

On 3 April, a new grant scheme to support to support professional artists and enable the live presentation of their work on online platforms is being made available from 3 April for an initial period of 4 weeks. Funding of €100,000 is being made available on a match funded basis by FACEBOOK Ireland and Culture Ireland, a division of the Department. All successful artists will be awarded €1,000. The scheme will be managed by Culture Ireland in conjunction with First Music Contact and Poetry Ireland in association with RTÉ.

To note:

  • Artists may use any preferred Social Media platform for their performance. Culture Ireland will share on Facebook but are not specifying any product or platform to artists.
  • Artists retain all copyright of their work. Facebook takes no ownership, share or benefit of artists I/P

Full details of the scheme and application form is available on www.cultureireland.gov.ie. Frequently asked questions regarding this scheme may be accessed HERE 

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