Red seats in the theater

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Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters have jointly agreed to create an additional module for the cultural sector within the scope of Bridging Assistance III. In addition to own-account workers and those without steady employment, ‘short-term employees in the performing arts sector’ will also be eligible to apply for assistance of up to €7,500 for the six-month period from January to June 2021.

Federal Minister Altmaier said:
"The cultural sector is particularly hard hit by the current restrictions, which is also affecting many performing artists. We have set up the New Start Assistance to also bring relief to those employed for short periods of time. For we should not sacrifice our cultural identity in this crisis and must support the people who embody it."

Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz said:
"The pandemic-related restrictions on the usually very broad range of cultural services and activities we have in our country is a great sacrifice for all of us. These restrictions hit those who earn their living in the cultural industries particularly hard. This is why I am glad that we can now also provide targeted financial assistance for actors and actresses whose jobs are heavily affected by the pandemic. In providing the new assistance to them, we are trying to help them in this difficult economic situation."

Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters said: "I am grateful to my fellow ministers in the Federal Cabinet for following my urgent requests to recognise the very specific circumstances and employment conditions of professionals in the cultural and creative industries and for adapting the Federal Government's assistance programme to accommodate their needs. By including short-term workers in the performing arts sector in the New Start Assistance, those working in the cultural industries, who are among those suffering the most from the fallout of the pandemic on a personal and financial level, will also receive a fair and generous offer of assistance."

The new rules will help to effectively support actors and actresses working as freelancers, i.e. who are not working on permanent contracts, and comparable workers. In the past, actors and actresses working as freelancers were not covered by the previous assistance measures since they are not freelancers engaging in a full-time occupation, but are employed for a guest performance or a movie and are not entitled to unemployment benefits and short-time work allowances because their periods of employment are too short. Due to the pandemic, they have been largely without employment opportunities for almost eleven months now, as stage venues have had to cancel most of their shows since March 2020 to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. Film production has also plummeted due to the coronavirus crisis.

A recently published EU-wide study shows that the entire cultural and creative industries which have suffered a 31% loss in turnover, are – along with air transport – the industries that are most affected by the coronavirus crisis in Europe, ahead of the tourism and automotive industries (with sales down 27 % and 25% respectively). According to the study, the decline is most severe in the performing arts (minus 90% between 2019 and 2020). Despite this unparalleled impact on the performing arts, some of the artists affected have so far been unable to receive either Bridging Assistance, short-time work allowance or unemployment benefits because of the nature of their employment contracts. The new special rules that have now been agreed will finally change this.