© Sharon McCutcheon

Feature
coronavirus

Here's how to apply for financial aid during the coronavirus pandemic if you're self-employed or a small business in the arts

, , , , , and

We have gathered information about grants and loans around the world to help you get through the Covid-19 crisis

Money is tight, here's how to apply for it © Christine Roy

Artists, galleries and the thousands of self-employed and small companies working in the art world confront economic devastation as events and contracts are cancelled, and exhibitions and shops closed. Governments around the world are scrambling to prevent this unprecedented shutdown from decimating their economies.

Below is a summary of some key new emergency measures designed to help small companies and freelancers, with links to application procedures. We intend to keep this list updated and welcome information on any additional programmes.

US

Federal aid

Following passage by the US House and Senate, President Donald Trump has signed a bill providing $2 trillion in economic relief for businesses and workers in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The stimulus bill provides one-time payouts of $1,200 to individual Americans earning up to $75,000, plus an additional $500 per child. Lesser payments would go to higher earners, with individuals becoming ineligible at an income of more than $99,000. Couples filing jointly and making less than $150,000 will receive $2,400, and smaller checks will go to married couples who earn up to $198,000. Federal officials say that the money will arrive for most Americans within three weeks.

The legislation also creates a $500bn loan program for industries, cities and states as well as a fund of more than $370bn specifically for small businesses. It would significantly expand aid to those who have lost their jobs, allowing laid-off workers to receive an additional $600 a week for four months in addition to the benefits paid by state unemployment agencies. It also extends benefits for the first time to freelance workers.

The bill includes $75m to be disbursed by the National Endowment for the Arts, $75m for the National Endowment for the Humanities, $50m for the Institute of Museum and Library Services and $7.5m for the Smithsonian Institution, which oversees 19 museums and nine research centres. (The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington is slated to receive $25m.)

But US institutions have joined together to lobby Congress to include $4bn in aid for struggling arts groups across the country and to implement a universal charitable tax deduction to encourage individuals to donate. The American Alliance of Museums has launched a campaign urging people to contact members of Congress in support of this cause, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which is forecasting its own shortfall of $100m because of the coronavirus, is aiming to amplify the message with the social media tag #CongressSaveCulture. Now that the Senate bill has passed, Tom Schuler, chief government affairs officer at the Met, anticipates that much of this lobbying will focus on a new round of stimulus legislation. “We'll be going back for it,” he says.

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is working directly with state governors to open the way for targeted low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely affected by the coronavirus. Its Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2m that can offset a temporary loss of revenue. SBA also offers Lender Match, a free online tool that connects small businesses with approved lenders within 48 hours.

State and city aid

Some states and cities in the US are weighing other forms of economic relief for businesses experiencing a sharp decline in sales because of the spread of the virus and social distancing measures. New York City is offering no-interest loans of up to $75,000 to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees who have seen sales decrease by of 25%, as well as grants to small businesses with fewer than five employees to cover 40% of payroll costs for two months to help retain employees. Noting that New York City art galleries rely on networks of often freelance labourers, the New Art Dealers Alliance is meanwhile appealing to the city and New York State to provide further relief to commercial art galleries, artist-run exhibition spaces, not-for-profit exhibition spaces and artists and art workers reeling from the slowdown and the bricks-and-mortar closings. More information will be posted here as it becomes available.

On the West Coast, San Francisco has launched an Arts Relief Program, starting with $2.5m from the city, with private philanthropies encouraged to add their donations to expand the fund. Artists will be able to apply for grants of up to $2,000, while small and mid-sized organisations can apply for $5,000 to $25,000 grants as well as low-interest loans, with individuals and groups serving vulnerable communities to be prioritised. A website for applications is due to be launched this week.

Partnerships

Civic groups and municipalities across the country are offering grants to artists and other creative workers.The Seattle Artist Relief Fund organised at gofundme.com, for example, is funnelling money to people who have lost income due to cancellations and closings, from a minimum of $100 to an upper limit of $1,000 for each individual artist. (As of 22 March it had disbursed $45,000.) The Boston Artist Relief Fund, a partnership with the city, began taking applications on 12 March for grants of $500 and $1,000 to individual artists seeking to recoup losses, prioritising those that have not previously been funded through city-led grants. Small grants of up to $200 will also be paid rapidly on a first-come, first-served basis to affected artists and groups.

The city of Chicago and the state of Illinois have joined with the broader philanthropic community to set up the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund, which will distribute grants to artists, artisans and cultural organisations which are experiencing urgent need because of the coronavirus epidemic. Artists and artisans can apply for one-time payments of $1,500 that will be quickly awarded through a lottery system; cultural organisations, which must have 501c3 nonprofit status, will be awarded $6,000 to $30,000 depending on the extent of revenue losses and non-recoverable expenses incurred due to the outbreak. People can also donate to the effort, which is administered by Arts Alliance Illinois in partnership with 3Arts and Arts Work Fund. More than $4m has been contributed by public and private sources to date, organisers say.

Unemployment benefits

Each state has its own requirements for applying for unemployment benefits. In many cases, it covers only about 50% of wages, even for minimum-wage employees. New York State has waived the seven-day waiting period for people who are out of work because of coronavirus closures or quarantines. California emphasises that after an applicant has filed a claim, he or she must continue to certify for benefits and meet eligibility requirements each week to receive payments.

Private and nonprofit support

In many cases, the private sector has stepped in to help people and businesses struggling because of cancellations and quarantines. Kickstarter has built a live archive of resources for artists, from best practices for remote work to emergency grants for those buffeted by the crisis to legal aid and advice on recession-proofing a creative practice. The Art Newspaper has compiled a list of resources and financial aid, and another is being maintained by the New York Foundation for the Arts that mainly details emergency grants. And crowdfunding efforts to aid creative people who have lost income are popping up across the country, as relayed by the organisation Americans for the Arts.

A coalition of donors has set up a $75m fund to aid non-profit arts, cultural and social service organisations in New York City that have been impacted by the epidemic. Called the NYC Covid-19 Response & Impact Fund and administered by the New York Community Trust, it will disburse grants and interest-free loans to small and midsize non-profits to help them meet city residents’ needs and to cover losses linked to the disruption of their activities. To be eligible, an organisation must be a 501(c)3 non-profit organisation based in New York City that already receives city or New York State money and has an annual operating budget up to $20m.

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation in New York plans a relief effort for artists and art organisations buffeted by the coronavirus that will disburse $5m over the next three years. The first round of funding will include immediate gifts of $500,000 for the Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ Covid-19 relief fund, which is funneling emergency grants to artists to offset income losses resulting from cancelled performances or exhibitions; $500,000 for a new Artist Relief Fund that will offer direct grants to artists facing general hardship; and $250,000 for an alliance of small New York City-based arts organisations that present the work of living artists. Other recipients will be chosen over the next three years in coordination with the foundation's national partners.

The J. Paul Getty Trust is creating a $10m fund to provide economic relief to small and midsize non-profit museums and other visual arts organisations in Los Angeles County that are being affected by the crisis. The fund will be administered by the California Community Foundation (CCF). While the details have yet to be finalised, the Getty says it expects the grants to museums and other art organisations to range from $25,000 to $200,000. Joan Weinstein, president of the Getty Foundation, says that most of the institutional grants will go to organisations with operating budgets under $10m, and that the CCF will scrutinise the impact of each institutional candidate on the community in which it is located. The trust says that the CCF's current annual fellowships for visual artists, established more than three decades ago through an endowment set up by the Getty, will be repurposed this year to provide emergency aid to artists.

The donor program Anonymous Was a Woman (AWAW) has announced a $250,000 emergency grant project to support artists who have experienced demonstrable financial hardship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The grants will range up to $2,500 apiece and will go to female visual artists over the age of 40 in the United States and territories. Applications are open from 6 April to 8 April at the website of the New York Foundation for the Arts, which is partnering with AWAW to administer the grants. Anonymous Was a Woman also offers 10 grants of $25,000 annually to women artists over 40, and they will be presented as previously planned in the fall. While those awards have historically been funded solely by the program’s founder Susan Unterberg, donors can help finance the emergency Covid-19 grants at AWAW’s website.

The nonprofit Safety Net Fund is offering grants of up to $500 per person per month to Bay Area artists in California who make their living offline at events and at establishments that have been cancelled or closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The grantees must provide proof of artistic endeavor within the last six months, must not be eligible for unemployment benefits and must have received less than $1000 of income within the last 30 days. The fund is sponsored by the local nonprofit the Intersection for the Arts.

The Freelancers Relief Fund is offering grants to US freelancers of up to $1,000 per household to cover lost income related to the Covid-19 virus. Applicants must have suffered an income loss of at least 50% and provide tax filings and relevant communications related to the loss of income. The grants will cover essential expenses not covered by government relief programs, including rent, food and utility payments.

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts is providing emergency stipends ranging from $500 to $2,500 to visual and performing artists in the US who encounter sudden, unanticipated opportunities to present their work to the public when there is insufficient time to seek other sources of funding and who incur unexpected or unbudgeted expenses for projects close to completion with committed exhibition or performance dates.

UK

31 March: Arts Council England has published applicant guidance for two of its Emergency Response Package funds: one to support individuals and the other for organisations outside its National Portfolio.

26 March: UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a self-employed income support scheme. “The government will pay self-employed people, who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus, a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 per month,” Sunak tweeted. It is open to those with trading profits up to £50,000 who make a majority of their income from self-employment. Sunak claims 95% of self-employed people will benefit; HMRC will contact all eligible individuals. Other measures: self-employed people can access business interruption loans; income tax payments due in July can be deferred until January 2021; Universal Credit can be accessed.

Arts Council England (ACE) has announced that it will refocus some grant programmes to help compensate individual artists and freelancers for lost earnings; further details will be announced shortly.

Arts Council England has announced a £160m emergency response package to support individual artists, freelancers and cultural organisations: £20m will be for creative practitioners and freelancers, £50m for organisations outside ACE's National Portfolio group (arts bodies funded by the Arts Council), and £90m will support National Portfolio Organisations.

From the £20m fund, artists and creative practitioners will be eligible for cash grants up to £2.5k.   From the same fund, the Arts Council is also planning to make grants up to £4m to existing Benevolent Funds for cultural workers. "We plan to publish detailed guidance for the individual and non-NPO funds on the 30 March. A full set of criteria and guidance for applicants will follow," says ACE.

The Arts Council is suspending its main project funding stream—National Lottery Project Grants. "Every year, our National Lottery Project Grants are a vital source of income, especially for individuals and smaller organisations. However, at this time of crisis, we believe that this budget is best spent on sustaining the sector," says ACE.

Arts Council England and BBC Arts have announced a new £250,000 #CultureinQuarantine fund to help artists create new video, audio and interactive works from self-isolation. Go to: thespace.org

The UK government has allocated one-off grants totalling £10,000 for small businesses in receipt of business rate relief. “On top of that, we will provide small businesses in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors with an additional grant scheme of up to £25,000. Any of these businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 can now get access to [this] government grant,” according to the Conservatives website. Under new plans announced by the Scottish government, small businesses with a rateable value of between £18,000 and £51,000 will be able to apply for a £25,000 grant.

a-n The Artists Information Company, the largest artists’ membership organisation in the UK, has produced a Covid-19 guidance document for artists and cultural institutions incorporating a list of available funding resources; this includes details of emergency finance packages such as a Covid Impact fund established by Creative Factory in Middlesbrough. 2 April: For artist members, a-n is bringing forward the application process for the next round of a-n artist bursaries (Time Space Money programme).

Artists and art organisations in Coventry and Warwickshire are being offered grants between £500 and £1000 by the Coventry 2021 Coronavirus Resilience Fund. Applications are available here.

Manchester International Festival is offering a range of funding packages for Greater Manchester artists including Festival In My House. "We want people to host their own micro-international festival at home, exploring remote collaborations and audiences—up to £1000 budget for each event," say MIF. Also Get Creative: "This could take the form of an online workshop, performance, talk, discussion or other creative idea of your choice – up to £350 per activity."

Creative Scotland has launched three funding programmes for the creative sector: the Creative Scotland Bridging Bursaries Fund will provide financial support for individual creative practitioners and/or freelancers (the £2m fund will offer one-off bursary payments of between £500 and £2,500); a £1.5m Screen Scotland Bridging Bursary programme will provide one-off bursaries of £500 to £2,500 to freelance and self-employed screen sector workers; the Open Funding: Sustaining Creative Development £7.5m fund will support up to 12 months of activity with a maximum award of £50,000 (the funds will support creative practitioners to help them continue to develop their work). 

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has announced a new £50m emergency fund to "support heritage in crisis". Funding through the Emergency Fund for grants of between £3,000-£50,000 will be available to organisations that have received funding in the past and are either a current grantee, or still under contract following a previous grant. "Applications will be open to the full breadth of heritage, from historic sites, industrial and maritime heritage, museums, libraries and archives to parks and gardens and landscapes and nature," says a statement.

The London-based Bagri Foundation has launched an open call to award £1,000 digital commissions to Asian artists and creatives. The series of commissions, titled At Home in the World, span five categories: visual art, film, sound, lectures and courses, and the written word. One £1,000 commission will be awarded for each category, which will then be shown and promoted on the foundations digital platforms. Artists can submit up to two proposals each, and the UK-based charity is particularly interested in receiving applications from “those who have been adversely affected by Covid-19 and who have suffered cancellations of work as a result”. The competition is open to artists from Asia and its diaspora. The closing date for submissions is 17 April and the winners will be announced in May.

GERMANY

At times like this, it’s good to have a budget surplus. On 23 March, the German government signed off on a package of measures designed to help freelancers and small companies stave off bankruptcy or acute liquidity difficulties caused by the coronavirus shutdown. For the many self-employed and small companies in the world of arts and culture, these measures could prove critical to their survival. “We know what the needs are, we understand the desperation,” Culture Minister Monika Grütters said in a statement. “Help is coming, as quickly and unbureaucratically as possible!”

The package is to be approved by parliament this week. A number of other measures have already been agreed at the federal and state level. Here is a summary of the instruments available to freelancers and small companies in the arts and other industries.

Federal government aid and emergency loans

The government on 23 March announced funding of up to €50 billion for individual grants to freelancers and companies. The self-employed and firms with up to five employees can apply for a one-off grant of up to €9,000. Companies with up to ten employees can apply for a one-time grant of up to €15,000. This is designed to cover running costs such as rents on artists’ studios and loan repayments. Applicants must demonstrate that their current difficulties are caused by the coronavirus; companies experiencing financial problems before March 2020 are not eligible. The application procedure will be online and the payments are likely to be administered by states and municipalities, according to the Economics Ministry. Details of how to apply have yet to be announced.

The Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, a state-owned bank, is offering low-interest loans on behalf of the federal government for companies suffering from the impact of coronavirus measures. The amount available for these emergency loans is unlimited. Companies must show that they were not in financial difficulties before 31 December, 2019. These loans are accessible via a company’s usual bank or financing partner. Click here, for more information.

Freelancers can request deferments in tax payments (apply to your tax office, or Finanzamt). Companies and freelancers can also request deferments in payments to the Künstlersozialkasse (artists’ social security fund).

In addition, freelancers and companies who suffer a loss of income because their work is currently banned under social distancing restrictions may apply for compensation from their local Health Office (Gesundheitsamt).

Bavaria

The state of Bavaria is awarding emergency assistance to freelancers and companies in need of urgent liquidity as a result of the coronavirus. Companies with up to five employees can apply for €5,000. The application form is available on the state Economy Ministry’s website.

Berlin

The state of Berlin approved a €100m emergency coronavirus package for the self-employed and small companies with a maximum of five employees on 19 March. Among those it aims to support are people working in the creative industries, the arts, education, tourism and retail. The Berlin Senate has said it can increase the amount available to as much as €300m. Applicants are asked to demonstrate that the grant or loan is required as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The maximum amount available per application is €5,000. Individuals may reapply after six months; companies can submit another request after three months. An application form can be obtained via Investitionsbank Berlin.

Hamburg

The Hamburg senate approved a range of measures on 19 March which the Culture Senator Carsten Brosda says should offer “quick and unbureaucratic” relief for artists and companies in creative industries. These include grants of €2,500 for freelancers and €5,000 for companies with fewer than 10 employees. They are to be administered by the Hamburger Investitions- und Förderbank.

Other states including North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein have announced similar emergency programmes for the self-employed and small companies.

Private foundations are also beginning to step up: the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation, for instance, has announced a plan to support freelance restorers and academics who may be the victims of austerity measures implemented by museums closed to the public. Museums can apply for grants of between €2,000 and €25,000 for limited restoration projects or academic work on exhibition catalogues and catalogues raisonnés. For more information, click here.

AUSTRIA

The Austrian government has approved a €38 billion funding package to support companies and workers whose income is jeopardised by coronavirus. This includes €4bn in emergency aid for workers on reduced hours and small and medium-sized companies, €9bn in credit guarantees, €15bn in emergency funding for branches that are particularly exposed and €10bn for tax deferrals.

Companies can apply for government funding to support workers on reduced hours for up to 90% of their usual income. Applications should be submitted via regional offices of AMS, the national service for job-seekers. A list of contact addresses can be found here.

Credit guarantees for small and medium-sized companies can be obtained from Austria Wirtschaftsservice, a federal state bank.

Applications for tax deferments by companies and individuals are available here. Self-employed people insured with the SVS can defer social security payments here.

In addition, the government is working to establish an emergency hardship fund for companies and the self-employed which will particularly benefit those in the arts. The details of this are not yet available.

Private foundations are coming together to help artists who are ineligible for government support. Applications for support from Stiftungen helfen Künstlern (foundations help artists) will be posted here in the coming days.

SWITZERLAND

The Swiss government passed a raft of measures on 20 March to help companies and individuals to weather the coronavirus crisis. In total, it has pledged around SFr40 billion (around $41bn) in aid. The following measures are relevant for companies and freelancers in the arts:

Self-employed people who suffer a loss of income because of official measures to combat the coronavirus (eg. cancelled performances) can apply for compensation. These payments will be administered by the cantonal Ausgleichskassen, or compensation funds. A list is available here.

Companies and freelancers can defer social security payments without incurring interest. Applications will be assessed by the cantonal Ausgleichskassen, or compensation funds. (For a list, see above.)

Small companies including single-person firms whose liquidity is endangered by the impact of coronavirus can obtain government guarantees for credit during the crisis. More information on liquidity support is available from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

Emergency funding of SFr 280m (around $281m) has been made available specifically for arts and culture. This includes non-repayable loans to cover the living costs of artists whose livelihoods are threatened by measures to combat the coronavirus. This funding will be administered by Suisseculture Social. The website currently says it is not yet able to process applications but is working on it. Non-profit-making cultural institutions such as foundations are also eligible to apply for interest-free loans to safeguard liquidity via their cantonal government.

FRANCE

On 27 March, the French culture minister, Franck Riester, responded to calls to direct specific support to cultural employers and freelance creatives whose finances have been hit hard by the crisis. He said in a statement that the ministry will “ensure that all situations, as diverse as they may be, find a solution as close as possible to the needs of the [cultural] sectors”.

Freelance artists and authors can benefit from a number of the cross-sector emergency aid schemes already announced by the French government. Those who are eligible for a tax-exempt grant of up to €1,500 from France’s €1bn “solidarity fund” for very small businesses (with fewer than ten employees and a turnover of less than €1m in the last financial year) and self-employed people particularly affected by the coronavirus lockdown (who have lost more than 70% of turnover in March 2020 compared to March 2019) may postpone or redistribute payments for rent and utilities on their professional premises. Applications for the fund will open on the tax website on 1 April.

Freelancers may request to postpone their social security and tax deadlines and are entitled to claim sickness cash benefits under their health insurance scheme.

The government has also amended French intellectual property law to enable collective management organisations (OGCs) representing copyright holders, such as ADAGP for visual and graphic artists, to use part of their income from private copying to support members seriously affected by the crisis until 31 December. This aid will be distributed on a case-by-case basis.

The culture ministry had on 18 March announced a €22m relief package for organisations and professionals in the fields of music (€10m), theatre (€5m), publishing (€5m) and the visual arts (€2m), to be administered by the relevant national bodies. The National Centre for Plastic Arts (CNAP) is overseeing the €2m share for visual artists, art centres and galleries.

CNAP is dedicating an emergency fund of €500,000 to artists, curators and art critics who do not qualify for the national solidarity fund and have lost income from the cancellation of exhibitions, residencies, commissions and public programmes. Information about the application process and eligibility criteria will be published on the website.

CNAP, which acquires and manages works for the French state contemporary art collection, has also announced an exceptional open call for acquisitions and commissions with a €600,000 budget. French galleries that have been unable to exhibit or participate in art fairs during the lockdown may submit proposals online for works by artists they represent.

The Institute for the Financing of Cinema and the Cultural Industries (IFCIC) is acting as an intermediary for arts organisations and businesses negotiating loans and credit with banks. The IFCIC has pledged to guarantee banks up to 70% for all types of credit issued in the context of the coronavirus crisis.

ITALY

On 16 March, Italy approved a €25bn decree to tackle the impact of coronavirus on the health system and the economy; the following measures are expected to become law by 1 May:

Employers with suspended or reduced activity may apply to the National Social Security Institute (INPS) for subsidies worth 80% of employee salaries for a maximum of nine weeks until August, and are prohibited from firing staff before 18 May.

Withholding taxes, social security contributions and compulsory insurance premiums are suspended for taxpayers operating in the sectors most affected by the crisis, including culture and tourism, until 30 April.

Self-employed or seasonal workers are entitled to a special grant of €600 for the month of March.

And parents of children under 12 are entitled to 15 days of leave during school closures and 50% of their salary during that time from the Italian Social Security Institution, or a babysitting voucher worth €600.

But Confindustria Cultura Italiana, the Italian federation of the cultural industries, is lobbying the government to provide additional support for all cultural sectors, including emergency relief for museum services and temporary exhibitions.

BELGIUM

Self-employed workers can apply for a monthly "bridging grant" (droit passerelle) of up to €1,290 (€1,614 for families).

IRELAND

The Irish government has introduced the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (€350 per week). It is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost their job due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic up to or after 13 March.

The Civic theatre in South Dublin County has established a fund to provide financial relief to Irish artists experiencing lost income related to Covid-19. "Small grants of up to €500 will be paid rapidly on a first-come, first-served basis to affected artists and groups," says a statement.

CHILE

The Chilean Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage says it will allocate 15 billion pesos ($18m) to support artists and organisations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The money will be used to acquire cultural content, promote artistic creation and protect cultural spaces and organisations affected by the abrupt economic impact of the outbreak, according to a statement. The ministry has also developed an online registry and survey for artists and cultural organisations to evaluate the needs of the cultural sector, which will continue for three weeks. The survey includes 45 questions intended to identify problems that have arisen since the pandemic.

UAE

The Art Jameel Research and Practice Platform is a new rapid-response scheme offering artists support through the allocation of micro-fees towards their ongoing or new projects (the programme is open to all practitioners based in the Middle East and North Africa region). "The Art Jameel Research and Practice Platform awards fees of between $1,000 to $2,000; some projects showing exceptional scope and need may be awarded an extended allocation of up to $3000 (based on budget given in the application and jury discretion)." Applications, which can be submitted in English or Arabic, are accepted until 7 June.