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Financial help on the way for arts groups affected by virus

Eligible arts organizations will receive up to $15,000 to help pay their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government is setting up a $3-million fund to be administered by the B.C. Arts Council.
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Nick Middleton, left, and Duncan Smith of the Funk Hunters. Says Middleton: “It’s a really tough time for every single industry across the board … Most of the income has completely stopped.”

Eligible arts organizations will receive up to $15,000 to help pay their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government is setting up a $3-million fund to be administered by the B.C. Arts Council.

Lisa Beare, minister of tourism, arts and culture, said the organizations have canceled events, performances and festivals because of the pandemic.

Eligible organizations will receive the payments early next month, she said.

Victoria resident Nick Middleton, who runs Vancouver record label Westwood Recordings, participated on a March 23 conference call with Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith, who reached out to stakeholders on behalf of Beare’s office.

Middleton, who is also a noted performer with electronic duo the Funk Hunters, joined a group of B.C. managers, record labels and artists on the call.

“In a time of so much uncertainty, it was quite heart-warming to end up on a call with government and hear them say they are listening and want to help,” Middleton said.

“It’s a really tough time for every single industry across the board … Most of the income has completely stopped.”

Beare said the arts council will provide 50 per cent advances on its 2020-21 funding for arts groups to help with their cash flow. Workers in the arts sector who have lost income because of COVID-19 are also eligible to apply for a one-time payment of $1,000 under the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers.

Beare said additional help for the sector will be announced in the coming weeks.

“If that follows suit, it will be a big help in jump-starting the industry,” Middleton said.

— With files from Mike Devlin, Times Colonist