David Holland, Director of Public Policy 
Updated periodically since March 20, 2020
Last Update: August 19, 2020

General Trends, Resources, and Data Across the West and the Nation

The number of currently confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the region ranges from over 600,000 in California to under 10,000 in Alaska, Hawai’i, Montana, and Wyoming based on data collected on August 19, 2020. For public health information about COVID-19 in your state and nationally, please visit the following health agency websites.

Alaska (4,438) Arizona (195,557) California (638,831) Colorado (53,901)
Hawai’i (5,349) Idaho (28,696) Montana (5,956) Nevada (63,028)
New Mexico (23,749) Oregon (23,870) Utah (47,521) Washington (68,689)
Wyoming (2,909) Centers for Disease Control (USA – 5,460,429) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

State arts agencies throughout the West have had to close state cultural institutions; cancel programs, conferences, and other activities; and continue their work remotely in response to coronavirus public health directives. Please visit the following websites to keep abreast of these developments as well as resources for the arts and culture field in your state and nationally.

Alaska Arizona California Colorado
Hawai’i Idaho Montana Nevada
New Mexico Oregon Utah Washington
Wyoming National Endowment for the Arts National Assembly of State Arts Agencies Americans for the Arts

Impact of the coronavirus on the creative economy

WESTAF is currently monitoring the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the creative economy. This includes understanding how we can make use of official economic data to begin to model potential effects and identify risk factors for and vulnerabilities of creative industries. As part of our efforts to better understand how artists, arts organizations, creative businesses, and creative workers are being affected across the West, WESTAF conducted a survey, which closed on May 1, 2020. Survey results are supporting efforts to secure relief funding for the arts and culture field in the West from federal and philanthropic sources. The results of this survey are available HERE

Other arts service organizations and some state and local agencies are also conducting surveys. Check the Americans for the Arts Economic Impact of the Coronavirus on the Arts and Culture Sector Dashboard for regularly updated information on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the arts and culture field nationally (you can also take their survey here). If your organization is Latinx-serving or Latinx-led, also complete the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) survey on the impact of the coronavirus. In Oregon, a survey has been organized by a consortium of Oregon’s regional and statewide funders currently including the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation and the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Utah Cultural Alliance recently released the results of their survey(which is regularly updated) and California Arts Council has also released the results of their survey.

Local, State and Federal Government Relief Packages

Across the nation, a range of emergency aid packages are being passed and signed into law that seek to address the immediate economic duress that many individuals and institutions are facing due to dampened economic activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Among these, President Trump recently signed the HR 6201 Families First Coronavirus Act into law after it passed in the Senate. Following this, two comprehensive bills aiming to provide pandemic related relief, Senate bill S.3548 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act ($2 trillion) and House bill H.R.6379 Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act ($2.5 trillion), were recently being deliberated in Congress (the latter of which has provisions for increased funding of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities).The H.R. 748 CARES Act, however, was passed by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by the president on March 27, 2020. H.R. 748 includes an additional $75 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.The Arts Endowment recently announced the 855 organizations being supported by its CARES Act grant program and the $30 million it disbursed to state and regional arts organizations is currently being distributed through programs being developed throughout the county. The H.R. 266 Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act recently passed Congress and was signed into law by the president. This newest “intermediate” relief package does not contain any arts specific funding, but does increase funding to hospitals and to the Small Business Administration for the Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs. Another relief bill, H.R.6800 Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, recently passed the House. H.R.6800 proposes an additional $10 million allocation to the National Endowment for the Arts to support COVID-19 response. The bill is contentious in partisan terms as a decision is awaited in the Senate. The H.R. 7010 Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act extends the covered term for PPP loans and introduces other provisions meant to provide greater flexibility to businesses in the application of the loan.

Early measures adopted at the state level focus on funding hospitals and other healthcare services, expanding social services, strengthening medical leave provisions for workers, and protecting tenants and homeowners from evictions. To date, very few state aid packages have specifically or directly addressed the arts and cultural sector, but, as longer term measures are taken, there is an opportunity for the field to advocate for relief funding. States are also now in the process of determining how federal funds will be directed to priority activities and industries in the context of COVID relief. A recent and early example of the creative sector effectively advocating for state relief funds for recovery is in Utah where the legislature just passed and Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law HB5010, which creates COVID-19 economic recovery programs and several support mechanisms for the cultural community totalling as much as $9 million by some estimates. These programs will be overseen by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and local government agencies. Other recent developments include an investment of $2 million in Arizona Commission on the Arts announced by Governor Doug Ducey through the state’s Crisis Contingency and Safety Net Fund and the Oregon Legislature’s recent package of a $50 million relief package to be distributed through the Oregon Cultural Trust and in direct appropriations to a range of arts and cultural organizations throughout the state.

General resources on COVID-19 state legislative activity, including those of states in the WESTAF region, can be found on this National Council of State Legislatures page and state fiscal actions here. Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Utah, and Washington have enacted legislation related to the coronavirus in the 13-state WESTAF region thus far. 

Private relief funding by foundations and corporations

Private institutional philanthropy is being more significantly mobilized to support communities in addressing the pandemic (estimated to have reached over $4.6 billion), and this disaster philanthropy resource from Foundation Center includes early information on the investments being made across the country. Early funding focused on the Pacific Northwest, which has seen some of the highest incidents of confirmed novel coronavirus cases, and on supporting clinicians, research institutions, and public health agencies. Companies and private foundations that are making significant investments in western states include Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks Foundation, KaJ Labs, Albertsons Companies, The Omidyar Group, Comerica Incorporated, BBVA USA, Heising-Simons Foundation, Otto Bremer Trust, James Irvine Foundation, the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, and others. 

The U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, in partnership with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, are administering the US Regional Arts Resilience Fund relief and recovery grant to support arts organizations in the 13-state western region as an urgent response to the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s arts organizations. The WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund is designed to help mitigate the financial threat to the sector by supporting small- and mid-sized arts organizations of all artistic disciplines in rural and urban areas that are regarded by their peers as having statewide, regional, or national impact. WESTAF will administer the re-granting of over $1.7 million in fall of 2020 through approximately 30-40 awards ranging from $30,000 to $75,000, with a few exceptional $100,000 grants.

For additional information about the US Regional Arts Resilience Fund outside the WESTAF region, visit the links below:

  • Arts Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, or the Native nations that share this geography)
  • Mid America Arts Alliance (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas)
  • Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia)
  • New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island)
  • South Arts (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee)

Arts-specific Relief Funding and Other Resources

Across the region, a range of relief funds have been established to provide relief to artists and arts organizations. The City of San Francisco established a $2.5 million arts relief fund, which includes $1.5 million toward grants for individual artists and small or mid-sized arts organizations and $1 million in loans made by the Arts Loan Fund (ALF) of Northern California Grantmakers. In Seattle, Mayor Durkan recently announced an initial $1.1 million City of Seattle funding package to invest directly in creative workers and arts and cultural organizations financially impacted by COVID-19. Early in the crisis, Denver Arts & Venues also structured a COVID-relief fund to individual artists through its IMAGINE 2020 Artist Assistance program.

In April, the Arizona Commission on the Arts announced an Emergency Relief Fund for Artists and Arts Professionals, a collaborative fund established with $130,000 from the Arizona Community Foundation and another $25,000 from other partners. Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) has launched the COVID-19 CO Creatives Relief Grant in response to the crisis, a one-time payment for general operating support to nonprofit arts organizations in Colorado with an annual operating budget of less than $1 million. CCI has also developed a collaborative Colorado Artist Relief Fund. Oregon Cultural Trust is putting together a concept for a proposed $10 million emergency relief funding program drawing on its $29 million permanent fund to be presented to the Oregon Legislature in an anticipated special session within the next few weeks. The Wyoming Arts Council recently announced a COVID-19 Artist Relief Fund, and Utah Division of Arts & Museums recently opened and closed the first round of its Utah Individual Artist Emergency Funds program. In Idaho, Treefort Music Fest, the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, and the Boise City Department of Arts & History recently created a COVID Cultural Commissioning (CCC) Fund that is making awards to artists for the creation of individual works exploring, documenting, and/or reflecting on personal experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact. In Oregon, a consortium of grantmakers including the Oregon Arts Commission established the Oregon Arts and Culture Recovery Program, which will provide flexible resources to support members of the Oregon arts and culture community who have been adversely impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19, with a focus on supporting the adaptive capacity of both arts organizations and arts funders. The Alaska State Council on the Arts along with the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, and Atwood Foundation have launched an Alaska Arts & Culture Emergency Relief COVID Grant that supports individual artists in Alaska who are experiencing emergencies due to COVID.

The 13 state arts agencies across the region have disbursed funds through CARES Act relief programs, including Arizona Commission on the Arts’ AZ CARES Grant, ArtsWA’s CARES Act Relief Grants, CCI’s CO CARES Act Grant, Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts CARES Act Relief Fund, Nevada Arts Council’s CARES Act Grants, New Mexico Arts’ NM CARES program, Utah Division of Arts and Museums’ CARES Act Program, and Wyoming Arts Council’s CARES Act COVID-19 Support Grant for Arts Organizations. California Arts Council has disbursed CARES Act funding to local arts agencies, which will regrant the funds throughout the state. The WESTAF CARES Relief Fund for Organizations began accepting applications on Wednesday, May 6 and closed on Monday, May 11.

Nationally, new artist/arts relief efforts are regularly being announced. Recently, Artist Relief, a $10 million national emergency relief fund for artists and creative workers that will provide $5,000 no-strings-attached grants, was launched by a national consortium of grantmakers. Early in the crisis, the Boston Artist Relief Fund and the Rauschenberg Foundation/New York Foundation for the Arts Emergency Grants (eligible to artists throughout the country) were launched to respond to the crisis. Actors Fund is also administering COVID-19 assistance programs for performing arts and entertainment unions, including SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, Actors Equity Association, American Guild of Musical Artists, Musicians Local 802, and other groups. Established artist emergency assistance program CERF+ also recently announced a new fund for artists affected by COVID-19. 

For more detailed information, please see this regularly updated full briefing and presentation deck COVID-19 Arts Response in the West.