84% of Music Freelancers Still Waiting on Coronavirus Relief Funds: Survey

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Freelancers Union poll shows self-employed music and performing arts professionals are not receiving the government assistance they need.

Freelancers in the music industry are finding it difficult to secure government assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, finds a new survey conducted by the nonprofit Freelancers Union.

The survey, which was conducted April 22–29, elicited responses from a total of 2,755 freelancers, 411 of whom work in the music and performing arts fields. Of respondents in the latter category, 93% reported that they have lost work as a result of COVID-19, with 34% having lost over $10,000.

Nonetheless, government assistance has been slow in coming. Of the 85% of music and performing arts freelancers who reported they had applied for government relief as a result of the pandemic, 84% have yet to receive any funding, the results show.

The survey also found that freelancers in the music and the performing arts fields have had difficulty navigating the application process for government assistance programs during the pandemic: 59% reported that they experienced delays or were unable to complete their applications due to broken and unresponsive web systems, while 58% reported that they received "confusing or incorrect guidance" on how to apply as a freelancer, 37% reported that applications or funding streams closed before they were able to apply and 33% reported that they spent over 20 hours researching and/or applying for government relief.

“These numbers show the harsh realities freelancers are living,” said Rafael Espinal, president and executive director of Freelancers Union, in a statement to Billboard. “It has been a month since the CARES Act passed, and freelancers are left wondering when will they actually get the help they need to survive through this pandemic. This is unacceptable. Freelancers are feeling like they’re an afterthought. While businesses and workers continue to qualify for stimulus programs, the Small Business Administration and governors across the country have to do more to ensure there aren’t inequities in who is getting relief.”

The results also offer a breakdown of the types of government assistance music and performing arts freelancers have sought out during the pandemic. The large majority (91%) applied for traditional and/or pandemic unemployment assistance, while 36% applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EID), 29% applied for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and 10% applied for the Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP).

Of those who have applied for some form of government relief, 83% reported that they’re still waiting to hear back from one or more relief programs, 24% reported they had been denied funding by one or more relief programs and 11% reported they had not yet received funding despite having been approved by one or more programs.

Conversely, only 15% of music and performing arts freelancers who applied for unemployment assistance have received it, while even fewer have received EID loans (8%), PPP loans (6%) and SEAP assistance (3%).