Creatives in northeast Indiana and throughout the state will have access the first full week of July to advice on financial survival during the COVID-19 recession from the head of the local gBETA business development program.
The business accelerator she works for, gener8tor, has created various types of emergency response programs to assist communities that have been reeling from the recession and having trouble helping people navigate all the new relief resources.
Sarah Aubrey, Fort Wayne gBETA program director, and her gener8tor colleagues already have run similar programs “successfully in several markets,” she said. “Some have focused on general business, and others have focused, like the one next week, on creatives.”
The Indiana Creatives Emergency Response Program’s one-on-one consultations will be offered in partnership with the Indiana Arts Commission for all types of creatives, from visual artists to musicians to people running community theater troupes, Aubrey said.
The sessions “will be conducted through Zoom,” she said. “We would love to grab a cup of coffee with everyone, but it’s not quite the season for that in this socially distanced world. We’ll follow up with emails based on individual conversations.”
Aubrey has been contacting Fort Wayne area creatives community members, institutions, and organizations, such as Arts United, about the Creatives Emergency Response Program so they can help spread word of it to those who could benefit from it, she said.
The consultations are 20 to 30 minutes. Creatives should bring to the sessions questions they have had or information on roadblocks they have encountered in the course of trying to access support resources during the pandemic, said Anna Tragesser, IAC’s artist and community services manager.
“Maybe they have worked on getting a Paycheck Protection Program loan, and they have seen some delays or aren’t sure how to receive the loan’s forgiveness,” she said.
“Maybe they are trying to decide if they should apply for an emergency support grant. There’s several local, state and national grant programs out there right now,” Tragesser said.
“But that could certainly impact other types of support they’re eligible for, like unemployment. Really, it’s best to bring specific questions about things that you’ve already looked into but aren’t sure what to do about,” she said. “That’s what those consultations and coaching will be best used for.“
In addition to the tremendous contribution it makes to Indiana’s quality of place, the IAC says the arts sector employs 160,000 in the state and generates $8.4 billion for its economy.
In May, 2020 IAC grant recipients were invited to seek CARES Act funding amounts of $2,500-$3,000 from an Indiana Arts Emergency Relief Fund supported by the commission, Arts Midwest and the National Endowment for the Arts.
“We were able to get the funds out very quickly, which was greatly appreciated by all of our grantees,” Tragesser said.
“Those funds were able to be put toward kind of the general needs that organizations are experiencing shortfalls for, not only to keep the lights on or to keep the rents paid, but also to support some of their staff or artists,” she said.
Among the recipients of those fixed amounts were 17 arts organizations in the Fort Wayne area, Tragesser said.
The new Indiana Creatives Emergency Response Program “is yet another type of support for … not just our grantees, not just any one type of discipline of creatives, but any independent creative in the state of Indiana that needs some one-on-one coaching,” she said.
The IAC recently conducted a statewide survey in partnership with the Arts Council of Indianapolis and more than 25 partners across Indiana to see what was going on with its independent creatives, Tragesser said.
“What we learned from that is that creatives are able to access unemployment but they’re having a lot of unique challenges getting through the application and really accessing all of the unemployment benefits that they are entitled to. And so, this was a direct outcome of that survey,” she said.
“Everybody has a different experience navigating emergency support. That’s what we learned from the survey and that’s what this program is meant to (address),” she said. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Self-employed creatives who have lost income as a result of COVID-19 probably qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, with the weekly payment amount based on income earned in 2019, Tragesser said.
Once PUA is approved, an artist must submit weekly vouchers to report any income earned, because an unemployment payment for any given week could fluctuate if income was earned during that week, she said.
“An eligible self-employed individual can receive unemployment payments for a total of 39 weeks until Dec. 26, 2020. However, the extra $600 per week, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), will end on July 25 in Indiana,” Tragesser said.
“Creatives have told us that FPUC has been incredibly important in making up for lost income. That’s why it’s important to apply for unemployment as soon as you’re eligible,” she said.
More PUA information is available, she said, from the Indiana Unemployment Insurance frequently asked questions section of state Department of Workforce Development website.