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.