Press Release: 2020-03-25

MASSCreative calls on state lawmakers to include nonprofit arts, culture, and creative sector in COVID-19 disaster response

MASSCreative calls on state lawmakers to include nonprofit arts, culture, and creative sector in COVID-19 disaster response

March 24, 2020—Today, MASSCreative joined with the Mass Cultural Council and Mass Humanities in urging state lawmakers to address the needs of the nonprofits arts, cultural, and creative sector as it works on a legislative response to the economic losses related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

An online survey of artists and nonprofit organizations conducted by Mass Cultural Council in the five days following Gov. Charlie Baker’s declaration of a public health emergency estimates that the sector has already suffered dire and devastating losses: 

  • Loss of $55.7 million in anticipated revenues due to cancelled performances, shows, and exhibits for the 566 nonprofit arts organizations that completed the survey.
  • Loss of $2.8 million in anticipated revenues due to cancelled shows and performance-related gigs such as event video and photography for the 595 individuals who completed the survey.
  • Potential loss of over 8,000 jobs.

“There is no way these organizations will ever realize those revenues,” said MASSCreative Executive Director Emily Ruddock. “Even if they were able to reschedule these performances six months from now, they would still need to pay once again for rehearsals, planning, and marketing. This money isn’t coming back, which means there is a great risk that those 8,000 jobs won’t be coming back anytime soon, either.”

In Massachusetts, every dollar spent by an arts and cultural organization generates $2.30 in sales for nearby businesses, and arts nonprofits support more than 73,000 full-time jobs, generate over $2.3 billion in total spending, and bring in nearly $100 million in state tax revenues.

“Despite its enormous strength, traditional economic recovery measures won’t work for a sector in which many people are self-employed and the business model relies on self-insuring for unemployment claims and making revenue through annual fundraising galas and one-time annual productions that are years in the making,” Ruddock added.

Legislative remedies for the pandemic-related economic devastation to the arts, cultural, and creative sector would include:

  • Cost-sharing between the state and self-insured nonprofit employers where those employers are paying for individuals unemployed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as recommended by the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network.
  • Lobbying the federal government for a Major Disaster declaration in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in order to use the Stafford Act which allows for Disaster Unemployment Assistance for individuals who are contract workers and not eligible for unemployment insurance.
  • Making pandemic-related tax credits and deductions applicable not just to income taxes, but to the taxes nonprofits pay, such as unrelated business income taxes and payroll taxes, as recommended by the Mass Nonprofit Network.
  • Instructing business insurance policies to consider the state’s emergency declaration prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 as a covered business insurance claim.
  • Allow for the conversion of program-specific government contracts and private foundation grants to pay for general operating expenses.
  • Prioritizing Philanthropic Relief funds designated for the creative community for independent artists and contractors without access to unemployment.
  • Requesting that mayors, town managers and select boards direct their local cultural councils to honor payment for LCC-funded performances cancelled due to the COVID-19 statewide emergency.

Read MASSCreative's COVID-19 State Policy Recommendations

Read MASSCreative's COVID-19 Federal Policy Recommendations