"A failure to fully understand and address the needs of those working in the Arts" is how a former Mayor of Galway has described the measures relating to artists and arts workers in the Government's July stimulus package.
Labour Galway City West councillor, Niall McNelis, has said the package, while continuing some good measures, ultimately "fails to adequately deal with the major concerns" of those working in the sector.
Cllr McNelis said the package's additional funding for performance, production, drama, and culture, along with the extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, are welcome, but the "harsh cuts" to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will "adversely affect the large number of freelance workers" in the arts.
“The arts sector has been devastated by the pandemic and unfortunately will not be able to fully re-open until all Covid restrictions and social distancing recommendations are lifted," he said. "The wait for a vaccine or treatment could be many months away and with that, the wait to re-open many venues and commence performances. Despite these conditions, freelance workers will be unfairly penalised by the reduction in the PUP."
'Many arts workers face the twin fear of a cut to PUP and the lifting of the eviction ban and rent freeze in the coming months'
While Cllr McNelis called the recently announced additional re-skilling opportunities "important for the economy overall", they were of little use to arts workers. "They want to go back to work but they simply cannot," he said.
He said the "unpredictable nature of income" in the arts sector has resulted in a "disproportionately high share" of artists and arts workers living in rental accommodation. "Many workers in the sector were already on low wages and many now face the twin fear of a cut to PUP and the lifting of the eviction ban and rent freeze in the coming months."