Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
The COVID-19 crisis gives rise to many challenges for the nation as a whole and is having an unprecedented impact on the on the arts, culture, heritage and Gaeltacht sectors. As part of its suite of responses to the COVID-19 situation, the Government issued guidance on returning to the workplace on 9th May. The 'Return to Work Safely Protocol' clearly and comprehensively sets out the steps and processes that businesses must take to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. It is a matter for all employers to ensure their workplaces are safe for staff and customers alike.
I am very aware that the reopening of arts and culture venues will pose challenges for many of these organisations. They may need to make modifications to their entrances, foyer spaces, seating areas for example, to ensure social distancing and any other necessary measures are maintained and adhered to.
My Department is currently examining its small capital grant schemes for arts and culture organisations in the context of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
1431. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if announcements of financial supports will be made to assist freelance technicians who could not be classified as artists but are essential to the functioning of the industry and have been equally as affected by the Covid-19 crisis. [7007/20]
As part of its suite of responses to the COVID-19 situation, the Government introduced new temporary measures to provide financial support to workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis including the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and a Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, which is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, offers a payment to employees and to the self-employed who have lost their job on (or after) 13 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An application in respect of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment can be made both by employees who have lost their job, been temporarily laid off, asked to stay at home, or are not getting any money from an employer; and the self-employed who have temporarily ceased trading due to the pandemic.
The Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme is administered by the Revenue Commissioners. The scheme is predicated on the employer wanting to keep employees on the payroll and to retain them until business picks up by enabling employees, whose employers are affected by the pandemic, to receive significant supports directly from their employer through the payroll system. The scheme is expected to last 12 weeks from 26 March 2020 and will cover 70% of the net salary of workers, up to a maximum of €410 per week.
These two schemes are in addition to the normal state supports that remain in place.
There is nothing in the legislation excluding any sector or profession in the economy. Equally freelance and/or self-employed people can qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. My Department provides a helpdesk advice facility on income support for individuals at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would encourage people in the sector to make contact for advice.
1432. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to provide supports for the live entertainment industry (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7008/20]
1433. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will seek supports from Coronavirus response investment initiative to specifically support live entertainment performers whose industry has collapsed as a result of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7009/20]
1434. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will discuss with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection a new mechanism to ensure that all artists, musicians, performers and technical support staff whose work is precarious by nature and have lost their income due to Covid-19, are eligible for the Covid-19 payment, even if they were not working on the date required by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7010/20]
1435. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if additional funds will be made available to the Covid-19 crisis response award by the Arts Council in order to support artists that have lost income as a result of the health crisis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7011/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1432 to 1435, inclusive, together.
In the context of the wider cultural sector, the Department has met and continues to meet with arts and cultural organisations under its aegis. My Department and the Arts Council are providing detailed advice for arts and arts organisations on their websites. Priority is being given towards supporting the artists and arts workers. These matters will receive further consideration in the context of the recovery phase.
Following a meeting I convened on 12 March with the Arts Council, the National Cultural Institutions and Screen Ireland, the Arts Council announced a series of immediate measures, including an undertaking to honour all funding commitments made to organisations and allow grantees to draw down up to 90% of their funding commitment. To facilitate this, my Department advanced payment of the annual allocation to the Arts Council. These measures were taken to ensure grantees could continue to operate and meet their financial commitments, particularly to individual artists. The measures provided much needed support to arts and cultural organisations and, more importantly, those working in the sector.
I announced measures on 3 April to enable artists and cultural workers to share their work through alternative channels and this included the Arts Council’s Covid-19 crisis response award, and the Ireland Performs grant from Culture Ireland and Facebook Ireland. The Covid-19 crisis response award of €3,000 per grantee supports the creation and dissemination of new artistic work for the public benefit and was jointly funded by the Arts Council and my Department.
The Arts Council is in daily contact with a broad range of artists and organisations to understand how COVID-19 is impacting the sector The Council continues to operate fully throughout the COVID-19 crisis to support artists and arts organisations through this difficult time. Regular updates are being provided on its website and on social media channel.
The Arts Council has based its response to Covid-19 on sectorial engagement which includes surveying, focus groups and other forms of interaction with funded and non-funded organisations and individual artists.
The Council has also undertaken a detailed survey of arts organisations to identify the impact on audiences, employment and finances for March, April and May as well as a survey of artists seeking information of the economic impact on individual artists.
The Department will continue to engage with the agencies under its remit and other sectorial stakeholders to ensure that there is the greatest level of awareness of the supports that have been made available by Government and to ensure that optimal use is made of available resources to best support the sector at this challenging time.
The Department has also engaged on a bilateral basis with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on social welfare supports, with the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation on liquidity and other supports for businesses, and is engaged on an ongoing basis with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on all aspects of the impacts of the crisis on the sector.
More recently, officials form my Department met with commercial interests on the plans for reopening in line with the Government's Roadmap.