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MA Cultural Organizations Report More than a Quarter Billion in Revenue Loss and 1000s of Jobs Impacted by COVID-19

Bethann Steiner, Communications Director

Updated Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Massachusetts’ Cultural Sector

New data documents the devastating impact of the coronavirus on the cultural economy of Massachusetts. Nearly 700 organizations responding to Mass Cultural Council ​surveys report more than $264,000,000 in lost revenue since the COVID-19 pandemic began. These are real-time losses in earned and contributed income. More than half of the organizations responding report layoffs, furloughs, and reductions in pay and working hours, affecting more than 15,000 jobs.

“These are dire times. More than 15,000 Massachusetts workers in the cultural sector have been laid off, furloughed, or are working reduced hours or with reduced pay,” said Anita Walker, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “The COVID-19 pandemic is crippling our cultural organizations – more than a quarter billion dollars in revenue has been lost to date. Mass Cultural Council is collecting and sharing this startling data with policymakers in the hope that any and all future government assistance packages will include arts and culture employees and organizations.”

In order to understand the economic impacts on the cultural sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and quantify key data such as revenue losses and jobs for advocacy purposes, Mass Cultural Council has twice polled the Commonwealth’s cultural organizations (March 16-22 and April 4-14). Early economic impacts, released on March 24, were staggering, as 566 cultural organizations reported a loss of more than $55.7 million in revenue.

Today Mass Cultural Council can share updated economic impact data collected from the sector. Unfortunately – but not surprisingly – the numbers are stark and demand attention.

As of April 15, nearly 700 cultural organizations have responded to Mass Cultural Council’s two economic impact surveys. All responses to date suggest the cultural sector is facing an unprecedented economic crisis:

  • More than a quarter of a billion dollars ($264,799,746) in lost revenue has been reported. Note that this figure is not a projection, but represents actual income lost to date.
  • This staggering number makes sense, as 91% of all respondents report cancelling programming and events, and 95% of organizations with facilities report closing their facility to the public.
  • 62% of cultural organizations responded that they are making decisions to layoff or furlough employees or reduce their hours or wages. These decisions will impact 15,381 employees across Massachusetts.

In the second survey, Mass Cultural Council added questions to understand whether employees of nonprofit cultural organizations are eligible to collect state unemployment benefits. Two hundred twenty-eight (228) cultural organizations responded to these new questions:

  • Of the 51 cultural organizations that responded that they do not pay into unemployment, 25 affirmed they had a financial liability for their employees to receive unemployment assistance. These organizations owe millions in unemployment liability – a total of $6,530,924 – which roughly equates to $260,000 per organization.

Since mid-March Mass Cultural Council staff has mobilized to gather data and offer support and technical assistance to the cultural sector, including the Safe Harbors Initiative for cultural organizations and the COVID-19 Relief Fund for Individuals. The Agency convened an online listening session to provide cultural organizations and individuals the opportunity to share their stories with our advocacy partner, MASSCreative, and the Chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development, and launched a new online convening series, Culture Chats, during which our Executive Director Anita Walker and her guests highlight the #PowerofCulture in Massachusetts through resilience, adaptation, agility, and innovation. The daily operations of Mass Cultural Council’s program teams have pivoted – staff now connect regularly with their stakeholders through technology. Visit the Agency Dates page on our website to learn more, and register for a convening that is of interest to you.

Mass Cultural Council is sharing this data with our legislative partners on Beacon Hill who are considering proposals to offset the disruptive impacts of the coronavirus and the practice of social distancing will have on the state economy. We hope this data will help inform their efforts.

Mass Cultural Council will continue to collect such data from the cultural sector periodically and share it with policymakers. Together with our advocacy partners, including MASSCreative and Mass Humanities, we call on the State Legislature to remember Massachusetts artists, humanists, scientists, and cultural nonprofits as state emergency relief/mitigation packages are developed and advanced.

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