Arts News Singapore

New COVID-19 relief measures announced to help arts and culture sector

The National Arts Council (NAC) has made a new announcement, in response to Singapore’s recent tightening of measures under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). The arts and culture are critical to society’s well-being, especially in these challenging times, as they rally and bring people together, and nurture the spirit, especially in times like these. But due to the change in measures, the arts and culture sector has faced significant setbacks in terms of viability of live shows and audience numbers, significantly impacting the arts and culture sector.

Over the years, the arts and culture offerings have taken on a wide range of innovative modes. Physical offerings remain greatly valued by both artists and audiences. Unfortunately, such physical settings now pose a higher risk during the pandemic. Stricter Safe Management Measures (SMMs) have been put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of our arts fraternity, including our audiences, supporters and patrons, as well as the wider public. The NAC then acknowledges and appreciates the sacrifices being made by the arts community in doing its part to help keep Singapore safe. 

NAC has thus strongly affirmed the importance of arts and culture in Singapore, and remains committed to support the sector during this time and sustain Singapore’s arts landscape. 

New National Support Measures for the Arts & Culture Community 

NAC has worked closely with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) on broad-based measures to safeguard livelihoods in the arts and culture ecosystem. Arts and culture organisations who have been impacted by this latest round of heightened measures will be eligible for the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) which will help them defray operating costs during this period. The Government will provide 50% JSS for arts and culture organisations involved in the performing arts and arts education where the stricter measures have required them to suspend most of their operations, and 30% for others, such as private museums and art galleries which also have been significantly affected by the stricter measures. 

Eligible organisations will also benefit from rental relief. For Government-owned commercial properties, the Government will grant one month of rental relief for qualifying tenants. For privately-owned commercial properties, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) will disburse a 0.5-month rental relief cash payout directly to qualifying tenants as part of a new Rental Support Scheme.

In addition, self-employed arts and culture practitioners who have experienced an income loss of at least 50% for at least one month, during the period between 16 May 2021 and 30 June 2021, may apply for COVID-19 Recovery Grant (Temporary). Eligible individuals may receive a one-off payout of up to $500. This will run in parallel with the existing COVID-19 Recovery Grant scheme. The Ministry of Social and Family Development will release more details shortly.

These schemes are in addition to the ongoing support available for the arts and culture community. More details on these measures can be found at MOF’s website.  

Sector-Specific Support Measures 

The Arts and Culture Resilience Package (ACRP) complements broad-based support measures, and has been topped up over the past year to the current $75m. It seeks to protect livelihoods, retain capabilities in the sector, and position the arts community to emerge stronger after the pandemic.

  • Organisations to get Second Tranche of ACRP Operating Grant

NAC will provide a second tranche of the ACRP Operating Grant to help defray operating costs for arts and culture organisations, and those in closely-related sectors, which hold key capabilities in our ecosystem. NAC anticipates supporting over 200 organisations with grants of $35,000 each, which will be disbursed from July 2021. 

  • Venue hire subsidy at 80% until end-September 2021

The 80% venue hire subsidy will be extended until end-September 2021, with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) to review the case for further extension based on the prevailing public health situation. 

  • New Grants for Organisations and Self-Employed Persons

In March 2021, MCCY announced that new grants will be made available to the arts and culture sector under the ACRP, to raise its resilience and sustainability, to enable the sector to emerge stronger. NAC has since been working closely with arts and culture stakeholders to develop these support schemes. In mid-June, NAC will launch the new Organisation Transformation Grant (OTG), and the Self-Employed Person (SEP) Grant. 

The OTG aims to support grounds-up transformation efforts by arts and culture organisers, with funding capped at $30,000 and $200,000 for organisation-specific and multi-organisation co-solutioning proposals respectively. The SEP Grant of up to $50,000 aims to create more work opportunities through project collaborations amongst arts and culture freelancers, especially those who have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

In developing these grants, NAC engaged over 120 participants from various segments of the arts community who shared views and gave valuable suggestions on how these measures could benefit them. Participants found the grants timely and useful in exploring new ways of working and creation.  Their inputs have been factored into the design of both grant schemes. Plans for more sessions are underway to facilitate networking opportunities for arts and culture organisations and SEPs to exchange ideas, build on project concepts, and meet potential partners that they can collaborate with.

  • Continual Support through Existing Project Grants 

In view of the recent measures, there may be changes in projects that have been pre-approved for funding through NAC’s project grants such as the Presentation and Participation Grant, Capability Development Grant (CDG) and Market and Audience Development Grant. NAC will work with grantees to make provisions for adjustments that may now be needed, where possible. We encourage grantees to approach NAC for further discussions. NAC will also allow “off-cycle” applications for CDG to better support arts practitioners that might be considering training during this period. Interested applicants can visit NAC’s website for more details and apply directly through Our SG Grants Portal. 

  • Supporting Live Performances 

In response to the recent measures effective through 13 June 2021, NAC is working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure that permitted indoor and outdoor live performances that have already been scheduled will still be able to take place safely. NAC will defray the cost of pre-event testing (PET) for live performances between 51 to 100 attendees. These performances need to have been publicised before 5th May and take place between 16th May and 13th June 2021. NAC remains committed to helping artists and arts groups in their endeavours to reach their audiences, so that the arts can continue in a safe manner. 

Supporting the arts community amid tough times

NAC will be organising an Ask NAC! Session in early June to share more on the OTG parameters resulting from the earlier engagements. In tandem with the launch of application for the OTG, NAC will also be funding an “Ideation Phase” in the second half of June, with a Panel of Consultants who can help grant applicants explore the feasibility of their transformation ideas and put together an implementation plan for their grant proposals.

SEPs have been reaching out to the Arts Resource Hub (ARH) with questions and clarifications on SMMs and support measures that may benefit them. ARH will continue its critical role as a key resource centre for SEPs in the arts and culture, supporting them with resources and engagements, and helping to address their queries. We encourage arts SEPs to subscribe to the ARH, especially during this period, to benefit from its services.

Through the pandemic, NAC has been active in offering work opportunities for our arts and culture practitioners, and to ensure Singaporeans continue to have access to local offerings, by actively commissioning and programming digital content that involves the arts and culture fraternity. #SGCultureAnywhere, for instance, brings together the best of Singapore’s digital arts and culture offerings in a one-stop integrated platform. For example, NAC collaborated with over 350 homegrown artists on the Streets of Hope project as part of #SGCultureAnywhere, presenting their artworks along the streets of the civic district and beyond, as well as online for those at home to enjoy. Through this period, NAC will continue commissioning digital works to ensure that our arts and culture landscape remains vibrant and accessible.  

The arts community has pulled through difficult periods of the pandemic in the past year.  With its resilience and inventiveness, coupled with Government support, the arts community can continue playing its critical role in society, of reaching, inspiring, and encouraging their fellow Singaporeans. NAC will journey alongside the community through these challenging times, and work together to emerge a stronger sector, for Singapore and Singaporeans.

Take a look at these social media posts for the latest update:Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong’s (@EdwinTongSC)’s Facebook, and National Arts Council’s (@NACSingapore) Facebook and Instagram

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