Guided by the philosophy of "supporting businesses, caring for workers, and protecting the self-employed," the Ministry of Culture's special coronavirus relief budget for culture and the arts is being expanded in response to the projected impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 2, the Executive Yuan met regarding a second-phase COVID-19 relief package, announcing its support for the Ministry of Culture's plan and adding an additional special budget of NT$3.72 billion. Combined with the stage-one budget of NT$800 million that has already been allocated, the Ministry's total special budget has now grown to NT$4.52 billion, and when the NT$700 million in stage-one emergency relief is added in, the Ministry can now look forward to investing NT$5.22 billion in stimulus and relief efforts.
Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun stressed that with this upgrade to "COVID-19 Relief and Revitalization Measures for Culture and the Arts 2.0 (hereafter 'Arts and Culture Relief 2.0')," the Ministry will strengthen the support it is able to give to businesses, staff, and the self-employed to weather this storm and prevent the loss of artistic and cultural talent as a result of the pandemic.
With this expanded budget proposed through the support of the Executive Yuan, the Ministry of Culture's "Arts and Culture Relief 2.0" plan will provide enhanced support in four main areas:
Subsidies for reducing operational difficulties raised to NT$1.8 billion
Under the "Arts and Culture Relief 1.0" plan, a total of NT$1.5 billion was budgeted for relief subsidies, with some NT$1.1 billion already invested in supporting businesses and individuals in the cultural and arts sectors.
With a further NT$700 million added in the move to the 2.0 plan, these subsidies are expected to grow to NT$1.8 billion, providing additional assistance for staff pay, utilities payments, and administrative costs over a three-month period.
In each round of these subsidies, businesses are eligible for a maximum subsidy of NT$2.5 million, while individuals in the cultural and arts sectors may apply for subsidies up to a maximum of NT$60,000.
Relief limit lifted for large businesses; 40% of pay, operating costs eligible for subsidies
The Ministry of Culture will place a stronger focus on areas which have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic such as the performing arts, film, and publishing, which have seen substantial reductions in turnover of more than 50%, making it difficult for large companies to continue operations.
To support them, the NT$2.5 million subsidy limitation will be lifted to assist with payroll and operating costs. A budget of NT$2.47 billion is expected to be allocated to this area over a three-month period, assisting culture-related businesses with up to 40% of payroll — maximum of NT$20,000 per person — and other operating expenses like rent in line with the principles of the inter-ministerial "100 Billion to Support Employment (千億挺就業)" project.
Loans to large businesses can exceed original NT$80 million limit
Under the "Arts and Culture Relief 1.0" plan, the Ministry of Culture had already secured the inclusion of the cultural and arts sectors in the Small and Medium Enterprise Administration's relief loan and interest subsidy scheme under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, providing extensions for businesses with existing loans, loans to assist with operating capital and stimulus, and interest payment subsidies.
However, the original upper limit for this scheme capped at NT$80 million is no longer able to meet demand among movie theaters, bookstore chains, and operators of performance events and venues.
As such, in the 2.0 plan, the Ministry of Culture has successfully negotiated the inclusion of larger enterprises from the cultural and arts sectors in the Ministry of Economic Affairs' "Inter-Ministerial Funding Guarantee for NT$80 million+ (跨部會八千萬元以上大型融資保證提撥)" program for credit guarantees and interest subsidies.
Self-employed cultural professionals now included in MOE coverage
Freelancers and contractors in the cultural and arts sectors are already included within the scope of the "Arts and Culture Relief 1.0" plan. With the kind support of the Executive Yuan and Ministry of Labor, a plan to provide subsidies for these individuals has also been put forward, aiming to assist self-employed individuals covered under Level 1 of the Labor Insurance Program (勞保) who do not meet the standard for taxation.
Each month, NT$10,000 in pay will be subsidized for an expected three-month period. The Ministry of Culture estimates that some 30,000 self-employed members of the cultural and arts sectors will be eligible and is working to offer the fullest possible support to these individuals in this challenging time.
As soon as the second-phase special budget passes its third reading, the Ministry of Culture will announce application details and further information on its second round of COVID-19 relief and revitalization measures. Read the original press release here.
Please visit the Ministry of Culture's "COVID-19 Relief and Revitalization Measures Platform (文化部協助受疫情影響之文化藝術事業防疫及紓困振興專區)" and YouTube channel for further information. More resources, including stimulus plans drafted by other ministries, are available on the Executive Yuan's website.