NCCA sets aside P76.8M to assist freelance artists during lockdown

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is devoting P76.8 million of its budget to helping freelance artists and cultural workers who have lost income because of coronavirus lockdowns.

"We have a budget, around P76.8 million of our budget, which caters to around 14,520 freelance cultural workers and artists in 19 sectors. These are who we are helping out now. This is ongoing," said NCCA Executive Director Al Ryan Alejandre on Thursday, May 21, during the Laging Handa virtual press briefing.

"We are giving it out to these sectors. This is until the end of our MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine)," he added.

However, the number of individuals this amount can cover is miniscule compared to the number of freelance artists and cultural workers actually affected by the pandemic. (READ: 'My craft is my only source of income': Being a freelance creative during a pandemic)

Based on the NCCA's own database, some 300,000 to 400,000 individuals were impacted. These are artists or cultural workers who don't have any employer-employee arrangement and whose income depends on their artistic output. (READ: Freelancers ask clients to hasten delayed payments amid coronavirus lockdowns)

Most cultural workers, like dancers, actors, and directors, also depend on the holding of mass gatherings which are now prohibited or restricted in areas under MECQ and general community quarantine.

The government rules also ban any leisurely activity held in public which covers movies, plays, art festivals, and the like.

To apply for cash assistance, Alejandre said artists and cultural workers can check the NCCA's Facebook page.

In the page, the NCCA posted about its cash assistance program for workers in the movie industry. The deadline for applications was moved to Sunday, May 24.

It is formally called Continuing Assistance for Artists Under the State of Calamity Program in the Film Industry. It is a program by the National Committee on Cinema.

Meanwhile, the NCCA was able to give cash assistance to 400 people, using funds amounting to P1.5 million, with help from the Department of Labor and Employment.

How can artists work during the pandemic? Cash assistance can only do so much. Artists and cultural workers would still want to make a living despite the coronavirus pandemic.

NCCA Deputy Director Marichu Tellano said the commission is asking various artist groups for suggestions on how the NCCA can help artists make money. The "series of consultations" could start this June.

One option being explored is the establishment of an "online market" where artists can showcase their work for people to buy or taking performances online.

"It's a good opportunity because many of our countrymen are focused on cyberspace and social media," said Tellano in Filipino.

The NCCA is consulting experts on how its programs can be "redesigned" to give better assistance to artists. ā€“ Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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