An Update on RISCA’s FY21 Grants & Programming

Dear Friends:

As you know, we are all living through unprecedented times. This crisis requires that we reflect on what we do – and have done for decades – to support the Rhode Island arts community. It causes us to ask whether what we have done best serves the needs of artists and cultural workers in the midst of a pandemic.

Our Council met last week, and made some major decisions about grants and programs for the current fiscal year. The State of Rhode Island has yet to pass a budget for the fiscal year that started on July 1, 2020. Without a budget, we are unable to announce or award any grants. It is now clear that the earliest we may have a state budget is mid-November, and it seems increasingly possible that all state agencies (the Arts Council included) will experience major budget cuts, given that the State currently has an estimated $835 million budget shortfall.

Throughout this crisis, RISCA staff have been communicating with our constituents to assess the needs of the field during this unusual and difficult year.

With all of this as context, our Council has decided to make these temporary changes.

October Grant Deadline

We will not have an October 1 grant application deadline this year. Once a state budget has been enacted we will re-assess our grant programs, but for now we will continue to pause all grant making.

April 2020 Grant Deadline

For those of you who applied to RISCA for a grant back in April of this year, we know that you are anxiously awaiting some notification of the results. For the majority of RISCA’s grant programs, we are holding out hope that a budget will be passed that will allow us to award the grants as recommended by our panels and Council. If we experience reductions in funding that will need to be reflected in any grants we award. In any case, you will need to wait until a budget is passed and signed by the Governor before we will be able to announce any grant awards.

We’ve heard a great deal from the individual artist community about their needs during this challenging time. Based on what we’ve heard we’ve made the difficult decision to NOT award grants in our Project Grants for Individuals and Fellowships in Craft, Film & Video, Fiction, Poetry, Play and Screenwriting, Photography, and Three-Dimensional Art categories FOR THIS YEAR ONLY. We recognize these applications have been prepared, submitted, and have gone through the panel review process. We hope we can redirect this funding to grants, programs and services for individuals that are more responsive to the current challenges our individual artists and cultural workers face. Feel free to reach out to Mollie (mollie.flanagan@arts.ri.gov) for more information on this decision.

What’s Next- Education

Applicants at the April 1, 2020 deadline to Project Grants in Education who were recommended for funding by the panel will receive an award contingent upon funds available following the passage of the FY21 State budget. There will not be a Project Grants in Education application in October 2020. We have suspended the second PGE grant cycle due to the delay in the passage of a State budget. Schools, organizations and teaching artists that regularly apply for this funding are encouraged to reach out to Maggie Anderson (maggie.anderson@arts.ri.gov) for consultation.

What’s Next- Folk & Traditional Arts

Applicants at the April 1, 2020 deadline Folk Arts Apprenticeship & Fellowship Grants who were recommended for funding by the panel will receive an award contingent upon funds available following the passage of the FY21 State budget.

What’s Next- Organizations

Organizations Program Director Todd Trebour is in active conversation with organizations about their needs right now. For this reason, the status of awards to applicants recommended for funding by the panel at the April 15th, 2020 deadline for Arts Access Grants will be determined once the state budget has passed. For organizations in our Investments in Arts and Culture general operating support program, grants awards will be made contingent upon funds available following the passage of the FY21 budget.

The October 1st deadline for Arts Access is suspended. Whether or not there is another organizational grant deadline this fiscal year is contingent on the state budget. If there is a second deadline, it will likely be a modified Arts Access Grant program that will speak to the needs of arts and culture organizations in RI at this moment. Depth of programming in Todd’s portfolio will depend on whether or not there are staff furloughs, their length of time, and their severity. For now, there will be 2-3 Peer Support Calls for Arts and Culture Organizations per month from September – November.

What’s Next- Individuals

In place of the typical grant programs, there will be expanded programming for individual artists and an intention to support additional Artist Relief Fund grants and possible a Technology Grant contingent upon funds available following the passing of the FY21 State budget. Programming will begin in October, and will be focused on supporting arts specific business training and artist peer support as artists and culture workers adapt to the pandemic. Beginning the week of October 8th, there will be bi-weekly Artist Peer Support zoom calls. These will be facilitated by a local artist around a specific topic. Beginning on Tuesday, October 6th, Mollie will be teaching a virtual Business Basics course. This eleven week, sequential learning course is focused on the legal and tax formalities of starting and operating a small business, as well as bookkeeping, marketing, and intellectual property specifically for folks working in the arts. These classes will be available live, but will also be recorded and posted to RISCA’s website – more information coming in the next week. Finally, since there are so many major changes to individual artist grants and programs, Mollie is hosting a Zoom conversation about this on Thursday, September 24th from noon-1pm. Please join her with all your questions, concerns, and ideas for this challenging year.

July Update on the Artist Relief Fund

Thank you all for your continued support of the Artist Relief Fund for Rhode Island Arts and Culture Workers. We currently have approximately $40,000 in funds available, but have made the decision to continue our pause on applications and distributing these funds reasons including:

  1. First and foremost, the amount of funds compared to the level of need prevents us from equitably and usefully distributing the currently available funds.
  2. There are numerous financial safety nets available to freelance workers, including artists, that have a significantly larger foot print. We will actively support arts and culture workers applying for these programs (see a brief overview of some of the offerings below). We also are monitoring the situation closely at a federal and state level, as some of the expanded benefits available expire at the end of July and may or may not be renewed.
  3. The two main partners involved in the application and decision process, Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the City of Providence Department of Arts Culture + Tourism, are currently experiencing partial staff furloughs – the staff members at each agency with primary responsibility for the ARF are both currently only working three days a week.

We will continue to actively fundraise, and we will be meeting in mid-August to re-assess the current needs of our community and our ability to quickly and equitably distribute funds. We also hope that this is the beginning of a longer term, statewide, partner run emergency relief fund that can be accessed beyond the pandemic.

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to Mollie Flanagan at the Rhode Island State Council on the Art at mollie.flanagan@arts.ri.gov. Please note that she is currently working Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays only, so email response time may be slower than usual. Additionally, if you want more information or assistance in accessing other safety net programs, including unemployment, SNAP, and Medicaid, you can also reach out to Mollie or call 211 (staffed by the United Way).

Unemployment

  • The CARES Act vastly expanded unemployment, both in amount of benefits and who is eligible. If you are a freelancer/self-employed/sole proprietor/gig worker, you are now eligible! Please apply ASAP using this link: https://covidemergencyuibenefits.dlt.ri.gov/. Benefits are based on your adjusted gross income for the last year your filed taxes for, either 2018 or 2019.
  • If you are not a freelancer, and were employed full or part time with an entity that paid into unemployment insurance tax, apply here: https://dltweb.dlt.ri.gov/UIClaims2013/intro/index.aspx?AC=yes. The federal government, as part of the CARES Act, has increased unemployment benefits by $600 a week, though that increase expires at the end of July.
  • It’s taking 1-2 weeks for DLT to process claims right now. They are asking that you not contact them unless it has been longer than that, as updating folks about their claims takes time away from processing claims. If they need more information, they will get in touch with you.

SNAP/Medicaid/Other State Level Social Programs

  • If you are out of work/your income has been vastly reduced, I encourage you to apply for SNAP (formerly food stamps). You can apply for other state level safety net programs using the same application, including Medicaid if you have lost or do not have health insurance.
  • Immediate crisis needs: Call United Way at 211, they will connect you to immediate resources, including assistance with food, housing, and more. More info here: https://www.uwri.org/2-1-1/.
  • Housing: If you are RENTING and are at risk of losing your housing due to financial issues, there is a statewide grant program to pay current or past due rent, late fees, or moving expenses. More info here: https://www.housinghelpri.com/
  • Health Insurance: If you have had a change in income or job status, you can apply for health insurance through the state exchange (this includes Medicaid) here: https://healthsourceri.com/. 

Other Things- Evictions, Utilities, and Student Loans

  • To Governor has issued a moratorium on the shut off of publicly regulated utiltiies through September 30. This applies to gas, electric, water, and wastewater.
  • If you have federal student loans: Under the CARES Act, payments on federal student loans — including direct loans, Perkins loans and Federal Family Education Loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education — are automatically suspended from March 13 through Sept. 30, 2020. That means eligible federal loan borrowers do not have to make payments. While loan payments are suspended, interest will not accrue. If you are on auto-pay, you have to suspend payments yourself, they are not suspending them automatically through the payment system. This does not include private student loans, or FFEL loans.

An Update About the Artist Relief Fund

On Tuesday, April 7th, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, in partnership with the City of Providence’s Department of Art Culture + Tourism, the Rhode Island Foundation, and the Alliance of Artists Communities, opened the application for the Rhode Island Artist Relief Fund for arts and culture workers. Over the past three and a half weeks, we have received over 750 applications from people working in the arts across our state. On Friday, May 1st, we are temporarily closing applications to the fund.

The fund was initially seeded with $150,000 from the Rhode Island Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, and Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Since launching the fund has received over $65,000 in private contributions. Together, we have awarded 418 small grants totaling $206,635.

These grants have supported artists across our state be able to afford their rent, utilities, health insurance, food, and other basic necessities, a huge need as other financial supports enacted at a federal and state level either did not extend to all freelancers and sole proprietors or there were delays or insurmountable barriers to access.

The fund’s partners understand the need is great and do not want artists and arts professionals spending their time and labor assembling requests when we know that we do not currently have available funds to grant.

We are committed to you. We know the value of your skills and talents, especially at this most challenging time. We will continue leveraging our platforms and engaging our networks to raise relief support and increase this fund. We will work to replenish the fund with additional monies, and hope to re-open applications in a few weeks.

If you have the means, we encourage you to donate to the Rhode Island Artist Relief Fund at https://www.artistcommunities.org/arf.