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Two COVID-19 Relief Programs Approved

Bethann Steiner, Communications Director

Applications Now Open for COVID-19 Relief Fund for Individuals and Safe Harbors Initiative for Cultural Organizations

BOSTON – Mass Cultural Council announces today that it is launching two COVID-19 relief efforts to help individual artists and cultural organizations address economic impacts associated with the coronavirus pandemic and associated social distancing measures.

“From March 16-22 the Agency polled Massachusetts’ cultural sector to begin to understand the economic impact of this public health crisis on the individuals and organizations we serve.  In just under a week, more than 1,000 cultural organizations and professionals responded to our surveys – the results were dire and demanded attention,” said Anita Walker, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council.

Mass Cultural Council’s survey found 566 cultural organizations reported a loss of more than $55.7M in revenue, while 595 individual artists and independent teaching artists/humanists/scientists reported a total of more than $2.89M in lost personal income. These striking figures were not estimated projections; they represented actual lost income.

Additionally, during an April 2 Online Listening Forum on the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis co-hosted by Mass Cultural Council, MASSCreative, State Senator Edward Kennedy (D- Lowell) and State Representative Paul McMurtry (D- Dedham), co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, representatives of the cultural sector from every region of the Commonwealth pleaded for help and assistance from state government.

In response to data collected and stories shared, Mass Cultural Council program staff quickly mobilized to bring two new program proposals to the governing Council for consideration and approval. Both were endorsed by the Council during its April 7 meeting, allowing the Agency to launch the COVID-19 Relief Fund for Individuals and Safe Harbors COVID-19 Initiative for Cultural Organizations today:

COVID-19 Relief Fund for Individuals

The purpose of the COVID-19 Relief Fund is to support individuals whose creative practices and incomes are adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Unrestricted grants of $1,000 are available to individual artists and independent teaching artists/humanists/scientists in Massachusetts who have lost income derived from their work as a direct result of COVID-19 related cancellations and closures.

The program guidelines and online application are available online today; the application deadline is April 22. In lieu of a second survey aimed at individuals, information gathered through this application process will be used to update the Agency’s COVID-19 economic impact data collection efforts and shared with advocacy partners and state policymakers.

Mass Cultural Council expects to award 225 emergency $1,000 grants through this program. The Agency is funding this program with existing FY20 resources by adjusting spending in several grant programs and reallocating resources from events and initiatives that are no longer going forward due to COVID-19.

Safe Harbors COVID-19 Initiative for Cultural Organizations

Mass Cultural Council’s Safe Harbors Initiative is a three-pronged package of support for cultural nonprofits to encourage access to COVID-19 assistance offered through the federal government and help organizations understand their current financial challenges and craft a responsible strategy forward.

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act creates new workplace obligations for employers and expanded support for individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, while the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act authorizes more than $2 trillion in spending to inject cash into the nation’s economy, businesses, and nonprofits.

Mass Cultural Council is partnering with the Nonprofit Finance Fund to provide a powerful assortment of webinars and online resources, coupled with capacity-building coaching services, to assist leaders of cultural nonprofits in preparing plans and making decisions. Additionally, a financial supplement to operating support grants will be paid to existing Mass Cultural Council CIP Portfolio and Gateway grantees to take part in the Safe Harbors Initiative.

Registration for the Safe Harbors webinar series and coaching services is available online.

Other Initiatives: Gaming Mitigation Program, COVID-19 Economic Impact Survey

Mass Cultural Council also announces today that it is issuing a second COVID-19 economic impact survey for cultural organizations. The survey is open until 11:59pm on Tuesday, April 14. As with the prior economic impact survey, data collected will be shared with advocacy partners and state policymakers to help inform their efforts to craft state mitigation packages.

Further, presenting organizations are reminded that the application period for the Gaming Mitigation Program is open through Friday, April 17.  All performing arts organizations who present touring shows and artists are encouraged to review the program guidelines to determine whether they are eligible to apply. Established by state law, the Gaming Mitigation Program provides capital to nonprofit and municipal performing arts centers in Massachusetts to preserve their ability to compete in a marketplace that now includes two resort-style casinos.

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