People who work in the cultural sector have long been overlooked and undervalued on the island. They are not lucrative fields and received no support. Even laws created in an attempt to support the arts are not followed, such as the one stipulating that 1 per cent of the budgets for the construction of new public buildings be allocated to enriching the space with art. The government chose to ignore this law for many years, until arts associations finally got lawyers involved to pressure them into implementing it. (It would be interesting to know where this part of the budget has been going all these years.)
And so it came as no surprise when the government began announcing financial measures to help workers during the coronavirus crisis and they had not included cultural workers at all. Following uproar, demonstrations and the hard work of groups of representatives again, the government decided it would offer a one-off payment of €900 to art workers. This one-off payment was to cover all three months for which people were affected. Apparently €300 a month is enough for these people to get by.
Ecstatic over any kind of lifeline to help with a job that is hard enough to live off at the best of times, many people applied. It seems the government realised they did not have the funds to help everyone as, once payouts began, it started backtracking on who was entitled to the payment and began adding new criteria which was not part of the original application. In the end an overwhelming number of art workers received texts telling them their application had been rejected.
The most problematic was that stating that if a person had had any kind of income during the period in question, they were excluded. By the very nature of their jobs, people in these sectors have multiple sources of income in order to survive. So someone could have made €50 from somewhere during this time and therefore were turned down. Whether people made any amount of money or not, their livelihoods overall would have received a huge hit due to the pandemic and will continue to be affected by restrictions around events and exhibitions.
What was almost a small gesture of recognition and glimmer of hope for those in the cultural sector, has ultimately left most feeling utterly dejected as once again it was impressed upon them that they must continue to struggle alone in an environment that works against them.