Requests for assistance from the Actors Fund have skyrocketed during the industry’s coronavirus shutdown. During the past three weeks, the Fund has provided nearly $3.5 million in direct financial assistance to 2,837 industry professionals. By comparison, before the pandemic, the Fund averaged about $2 million a year in emergency grants to performers and behind-the-scenes entertainment industry workers nationwide.
“Another stunning comparison number is that in normal times we issue about 70 grants per week across the country, but in the last three weeks we’ve geared up and are providing about 200 grants per day,” Actors Fund Western Regional Director Keith McNutt told Deadline. “So the need in our community is staggering. And of course, it goes beyond money. Mental health and health insurance/health care access are also top concerns.”
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The grants are for living expenses such as rent, utilities, doctor bills and health insurance premiums when someone is unemployed, disabled or otherwise unable to work.
In addition to its own financial assistance program, the Fund also administers the relief funds of other organizations, including Actors’ Equity, SAG-AFTRA, the Producers Guild of America, Cinematographers Guild IATSE Local 600, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the Hollywood Support Staff Relief Fund, and in New York, IATSE Make-Up and Hairstylists Local 798, United Scenic Artists Local 829, Musicians Local 802, and the Jujamcyn Theatre.
“The Actors Fund has been responding to crises and natural disasters since the first days of the AIDS epidemic — from that to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina to the Northridge earthquake, the California wildfires, labor strikes, the Houston and Puerto Rico hurricanes and many others,” McNutt said. “That history prepared us to be able to mobilize very quickly to help people through the effects of COVID-19, and this was particularly important because people in this industry were losing work well before the state of crisis unfolded in March.
“In that first week,” he continued, “we transitioned all of our financial wellness classes, career workshops and support groups and educational seminars online, and moved our entire application process online as well. We moved people from other departments into grants administration so we could meet the demand, which at this point has topped 9,000 applications – in all of 2019, we provided grants to 2,079 people. One of the amazing things is that the outpouring of people who want to help and support their community has been inspiring and heartwarming. We are incredibly grateful to all the individuals and organizations who are partnering with us and contributing to this gigantic effort.”
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