Second COVID-19 stimulus: what does it mean for the arts?

The Australian Government's second COVID-19 stimulus was announced on Sunday morning 22 March. What does it mean for us?

The Australian Government's second COVID-19 stimulus was announced on Sunday morning 22 March. Several priority measures are included that have been called for by NAVA and our fellow sector organisations. Some key industry-specific priorities remain outstanding – and we expect to hear more about those in coming days. So what do this morning's announcements mean for artists, artsworkers and small-to-medium organisations?

What has been announced?

  • Over the next six months, the Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit
  • The Government is providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders
  • People affected by COVID-19 will be able to draw on their superannuation, tax-free: up to $10,000 of their super now, within the 2019-20 financial year, and a further $10,000 after 1 July, within the 2020-21 financial year
  • Instant asset write-offs and other temporary relief measures for businesses have also been announced
  • The Government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible S2M businesses and not-for-profits that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000. These payments will help with cash flow so businesses can keep operating, pay bills and retain staff. This measure now includes not-for-profits including charities with aggregated annual turnover under $50m. New in this morning’s announcement, employers will receive a payment equal to 100% of their salary and wages withheld (up from 50%), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000. In addition, the minimum payment is being increased from $2,000 to $10,000. An additional payment is also being introduced in the July to October 2020 period.
  • This morning, the Prime Minister described these measures as “supercharging our safety net.” 

Find all of these announcements in detail on Treasury’s Coronavirus website.

How does this help artists, artsworkers and organisations?

  • Access to the temporarily doubled Centrelink payment will be crucial for affected sole traders, casuals, contractors, and all the various ways artists and artsworkers work. NAVA had called for Centrelink eligibility for artists and artsworkers with waiting periods waived. This, along with the temporary doubling, is good news. Take a look and see how you can apply.
  • Both non-profit and for-profit arts organisations will now be able to access the small business payments. The payment will be delivered by the ATO as an automatic credit in the activity statement system from 28 April 2020 upon employers lodging eligible upcoming activity statements. Employers who pay payroll tax will get a payment equivalent to 100% of the amount withheld, up to a maximum of $50,000. Non-profit employers with payroll tax exemptions will receive a minimum payment of $10,000, even if they are not required to withhold tax. This is good news. NAVA had also called for direct stimulus payments to S2Ms. Here’s some more information on how this will work.
  • Drawing on your superannuation may be helpful given the market volatility may be decreasing your nest egg. However, for many artists and artsworkers, there’s not a whole lot there to draw upon. If you can, please consider this a last resort. It’s vital that we’re all able to preserve our super for what it’s been designed for: looking after us in our retirement.

What's needed next?

  • We’re still waiting on a range of priority needs specific to artists, arts workers and the arts industry. As well as direct one-off payments to artists and organisations, these priorities include a significant funding boost to the Australia Council, a considerable investment in immediate artist support through the Artists’ Benevolent Fund and Support Act, and a coordinated approach to a long-term strategy for recovery. Some state governments have already made announcements about how their grants programs will be reconfigured at this time – great news. Here's what NAVA is calling for.
  • Several states have indicated that they will have further arts industry announcements to make tomorrow and in coming days.
  • Minister for Communications and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, has released a statement this evening, and the Australia Council is hosting weekly briefings including a First Nations Roundtable and an Industry Roundtable.

Help is near

At this difficult time, please know that support is near:

  • Call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or text the helpline on 0477 13 11 14.
  • Beyond Blue has a comprehensive list of national help lines and websites.