COVID’s Effect On Miami-Dade Arts Persists And Worsens

By Bill Hirschman

New figures show that the COVID-19 pandemic continued to gut punch the arts community in Miami-Dade County through last month with a total loss estimated at nearly $43 million and costing more than 5,300 jobs across the non-profit and cultural organizations, the county reported Tuesday.

The figures from the county’s survey of area groups covering March and April reported a direct loss of roughly $20 million to $22 million for each month – which does not include the larger economic loss to the region from companies whose business relies on an active arts scene.

“The survey confirms what we know to be the case: the situation continues to grow worse,” wrote Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, which conducted the survey. “The challenge continues to be to find ways for arts organizations to survive long enough for effective solutions to be developed both for the health issues and for audiences to feel confident about enjoying life and the arts again – together.  It still is too early to tell how long this will take.”

He underscored the dire situation: “These tremendous losses are clear indicators of the serious, relentless effect that the pandemic is having on the very survival of our cultural life.  We are more determined than ever to work together so that the re-activation of our lives and the community’s economy has the indispensable benefit of our vibrant and internationally renowned cultural scene. The arts are a vital contributor to attracting a talented workforce, giving us a competitive edge for tourism, and making this a great place to live. We simply cannot afford to lose our outstanding artists and cultural organizations.”

Earlier this month, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez authorized the partial re-opening of a small slice of the cultural activities: non-profit museums and public gardens that choose to open. The effect that will have on the May figures is unknown, obviously, but it does not affect events like events at theaters and the like.

The COVID-19 Survey of Impact on Miami-Dade County’s Cultural Community  of about 208 non-profit arts and cultural organizations, including but not limited to theaters, totaled $42.9 million in reported losses for the two months. The survey reflected 5,377 arts and cultural jobs lost through layoffs and furloughs of employees, or elimination of contracted positions.

That total reflected $22.8 million in March and $20.1 million in April.

Those figures are comprised of three categories: revenue loss from facilities being closed, revenue loss from cancellation of events and programs, and the expense of dealing with the virus, such as cleaning facilities.

The closure loss rose from $5.7 million in March to an additional $7.1 million in April for a total of $12.8 million.

The event loss dropped from $14.9 million to $11.4 million for a total of $26.3 million.

The COVID expense went from $2.3 million to $1.6 million for a total of $3.9 million.

Especially noticeable was the effect on the workforce: 1,700 in March, then  another added 3,677 in April for a total of 5,377.

The April survey asked which of the 208 responding organizations had applied for what kind of public/private aid, and how those efforts turned out as of the reporting date. The department noted that many Miami-Dade based cultural organizations were not eligible for the CARES Act funding available through the National Endowment for the Arts and through the National Endowment for the Humanities.

—45 percent of respondents applied to the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP);  65.9 percent of those who applied received a loan, resulting so far in $14 million.
—Only 20 percent of those surveyed applied to the National Endowment for the Arts CARES Act Program; 45% were ineligible to apply.
—15 percent were planning on applying to the National Endowment for the Humanities CARES: Cultural Organizations Program by the May 11 deadline; 47 percent were ineligible to apply.
—23 percent of respondents applied to the SBA Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program; no results were available yet.
—46 percent have completed the Nonprofit Interest Form for The Miami Foundation Community Recovery Fund (with additional support provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation).

Spring wrote, “The total of $14 million in PPP loans secured by arts organizations will help extend their survival but does not come close to addressing their documented losses and the additional funds that will be needed to eventually re-open safely.”

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