Coronavirus: Heritage minister reveals details of $500M earmarked for arts and culture

Canada’s arts and culture organizations are getting a clearer picture of how the federal government plans to divide $500 million of COVID-19 support.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault outlined details on Friday about the temporary relief plan he revealed in mid-April that’s intended to keep those organizations afloat amid the pandemic.

“Ultimately, the goal we’re pursuing is to keep our arts, culture and sports infrastructure intact,” Guilbeault said in an interview.

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“And that once we emerge from the crisis, the ecosystem is still there to support our artists and our athletes.”

Nearly $327 million will be handed out by the heritage department in the initial stages, while the remainder will be “assessed based on needs.”

About $198 million of the funds are being used as “top-up” for arts and culture programs, such as the Canada Music Fund, the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Periodical Fund, which have already qualified for other forms of COVID-19 support.

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And $116 million will go towards the television and film industry through the Canada Media Fund ($89 million) and Telefilm Canada ($27 million). Both Canadian content developers say they intend to outline how their emergency funding will be allocated and distributed.

The Canada Council for the Arts will receive $55 million, while $53 million is earmarked for the heritage sector via the emergency component of the Museums Assistance Program.

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The Digital Citizen Initiative, a government-led effort to counter online disinformation, will get $3.5 million, while amateur sports sectors will receive $72 million, which will cover national and provincial organizations, Canadian sport institutes and Indigenous sport groups.

The financial support comes in addition to existing programs to support people affected by COVID-19 shutdowns. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit offers payments of $2,000 per month for workers, including artists, actors and musicians.

Guilbeault emphasized that organizations will only qualify for support that isn’t already covered by other sources, such as the emergency wage subsidy or commercial rent assistance for small businesses

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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