I propose to take Questions Nos. 736 and 737 together.
The COVID-19 crisis gives rise to many challenges for the nation as a whole and is having an unprecedented impact on the arts, culture, heritage and Gaeltacht sectors. My Department has worked with the Arts Council from an early stage in the COVID-19 crisis, on measures to sustain our cultural infrastructure, support artists and arts practitioners and ensure the ongoing provision of cultural services. 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.
My Department has published a new booklet on its website which sets out support and information available to the arts sector in response to the COVID-19 crisis. My Department also provides a helpdesk advice facility on income support for individuals at email@example.com and I would encourage people in the sector to make contact for advice.
The Government is providing a range of income supports for people who have lost employment as a result of the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the corona virus and are outlined as follows:
My colleague the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection is responsible for a range of income supports including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). The PUP is available to employees and the self-employed who have lost their job on (or after) March 13 due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Last Friday, the Government approved an extension to the PUP until 10th August 2020 with a number of changes to the payment. Further details can be accessed at this link https://www.gov.ie/en/service/be74d3-covid-19-pandemic-unemployment-payment/. I understand that thousands of people in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment have now closed or are in the course of closing their claim as they had return to work as part of the first phases of the Roadmap for the Reopening of Society and Business.
Two jobseekers benefit schemes are in place for the self-employed as well as the Social Welfare Scheme for Self-Employed Artists. The latter scheme recognises the unique creative circumstances of artists in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance and gives them special assistance in their first year out of work, allowing them to focus on their creative output.
The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was introduced on 26 March to support the viability of firms and preserve the relationship between the employer and employee, insofar as is possible, by subsidising a portion of the employer wage bill in circumstances where the employer’s business has been negatively impacted by Covid 19. This scheme is administered by the Revenue Commissioners and along with the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), it is a significant though temporary measure that has been introduced to attempt to minimise the negative impact on the labour market through an exceptional period.
Last Friday the Government agreed that the TWSS would be extended until the end of August. Over 59,000 employers are now registered with Revenue for this scheme and over 520,900 employees have now received at least one payment under the scheme. I understand that as of 8th June, Revenue has generated further payments to employers under the scheme of €34.2 million.. Further details can be accessed at this link . https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/455ce-minister-donohoe-announces-extension-of-temporary-wage-subsidy-scheme-until-end-augus
The Government has introduced a range of business supports for those affected by COVID-19 and many of those working in the arts, culture and audiovisual sectors may be eligible to apply for these support. A number of organisations may be eligible for funding supports under the series of measures to support small, medium and larger business that are negatively impacted by COVID-19. These measures aim to help these organisations to restart, reconnect and rehire staff who have been laid off or furloughed. Full details of these measures can be accessed on the gov.ie website at the following link https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/fe8f00-government-outlines-further-measures-to-support-businesses-impacted-/
The Arts Council has established a short-term Advisory Group to identify ways to address impacts of the Covid-19 Crisis on the sector. This group brings together a number of leading voices from the arts and other sectors and will report to the Arts Council on measures to sustain the arts sector through the current challenging period. I understand that the Group will complete their work shortly and I look forward to receiving their report.
The Council has also undertaken a detailed survey of arts organisations to identify the impact of the COVID-19 crisis 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 and the results are published on their website. In the context of the wider cultural sector, officials from my Department are continuing to work with the Arts Council as well as other parts of Government, to assess and measure the effects of COVID-19 on the cultural sector and to ensure that optimal use is made of available resources to sustain the sector through this crisis.
While my Department makes allocations to local authorities for a number of cultural and creative purposes, including Commemorations and measures under the Creative Ireland programme, local authority budgets are matters for the local authorities concerned.