Under a lockdown to stop the spread of the virus, activities have stopped in many countries as people are asked to stay at home. This is having a strong impact on all sorts of businesses, now closed down, and has led to governments to provide different types of financial support.
In Germany, all cultural institutions will remain closed until April 19, including cinemas, theaters, and concerts, just to name a few. Trying to help out the sector, the national government has decided to step in with a $54 billion aid package that will be available for small businesses and self-employed workers.
“We know the hardships, we know the desperation,” said culture minister Monika Grütters in a statement. “The cultural sector, in particular, is characterized by a high proportion of self-employed people who now have problems with their livelihoods. The government is aware of the importance of the creative industries.”
The aid package will come in the form of grants, designed to help with overhead costs such as venue rentals and artists studios. There will also be loans to help businesses bridge financial bottlenecks. The funding will support not only arts-related individuals and organizations but also media organizations.
As well as providing them with funding, the German government will give freelancers social security benefits for six months, including unemployment insurance. Expenses for housing will also be recognized with an extra 11 billion in support. Tenants will also be protected from eviction if they can’t pay rent and loans.
The government already opened applications for the aid package, which is estimated to have a positive effect on the whole cultural sector. Other countries and cities are following the same path. England’s art council announced a $190 million aid package, for example.
“Our democratic society needs its unique and diverse cultural and media landscape in this historical situation, which was unimaginable until recently,” said Grütters. “The creative courage of creative people can help to overcome the crisis. We should seize every opportunity to create good things for the future.”
So far, Germany has 36.000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 198 fatalities. Chancellor Angela Merkel said that 60 to 70 percent of the population could contract the disease. The government imposed strict lockdown measures last week in an effort to contain the virus. Berlin has closed theaters, state operas, and concert halls until further notice. Many clubs — including hotspot Berghain — are closed until mid-April. Museums in Germany have also closed, with major public programs canceled.