As the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting closing of theatres across the country reaches the six-month mark, the #ArtsHero campaign is asking the U.S. Senate to release $43.85 billion in relief to the arts industry. So far, the group has collected over 9,000 signatures—including Laura Linney, Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Phillipa Soo, Glenn Close, and, Michael Urie—urging the government to enact a series of laws protecting unemployed arts workers until the crisis is over.
The campaign states that the arts and culture industry adds $877 billion in value to the economy annually, providing 4.5 percent of GDP and employing 5.1 million Americans. As it currently stands, there is $120 billion from the CARES Act that is approved but still unallocated, from which Senators could appropriate funds. Organizers also state that some of the relief aid should go directly to marginalized communities who are disproportionately impacted, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and persons with disabilities.
A $43.85 billion investment could potentially leverage up to $400 billion in economic development.
In addition to the $43.85 billion in support, the Open Call Letter to the 116th U.S. Congress written by Matthew-Lee Erlbach asks for an extension to the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (FPUC) and a 100 percent subsidy for the COBRA with eligibility extended to 36 months. You can read (and sign) the full letter here.
According to #ArtsHero organizer Carson Elrod, an estimated 3.1 million arts workers were relying on FPUC for financial support. “It’s been two weeks since FPUC ended, evictions have already begun, and the recent executive orders appear to be nothing more than a distraction instead of real action,” says Elrod. “To anyone reading this, contact your senators now. Call them. Write them. Tag them on social media. Do anything and everything you can to remind them that millions of Americans need FPUC to survive, and that arts and culture is a cornerstone of the American economy.”
#ArtsHero started this summer, aiming to secure funding by August 1. With that goal date past, Elrod says the new goal is to fight every day until relief aid is granted. Still, the group has made strides in its campaign.
“We’re raising labor consciousness among our fellow arts workers...they are part of a large, valuable and important part of the U.S. economy,” Elrod says. “A lot of us in the arts are told that we are lucky to work. There’s an American mythology celebrating the idea of the ‘starving artist,’ at the same time as arts is labeled a ‘luxury for fancy people.’ The truth is, [the industry] has always been profitable.”
In addition to the group's call for action, the campaign has actively used social media to reach beyond the industry. Among the highlights are a live Instagram series with some of Broadway's biggest stars, including Alex Brightman, Aaron Tveit, and Eden Espinosa.
To learn more about the campaign and get involved, visit BeAnArtsHero.org.