Tucked into a report last week from the San Francisco Economic Recovery Task Force (ERTF) are some details about a pilot program that had not previously been publicized, providing stipends to a group of qualified artists in the city to help them survive through the pandemic crisis.
It's being dubbed a "basic income" pilot program, and it will launch with 130 artists who will receive $1,000-per-month stipends for a period of six months, beginning in early 2021. The money can be spent on anything these artists want, from food to rent to art supplies, with no restrictions.
"San Francisco is only at the beginning of what we know is going to be a long road to recovery," said Mayor London Breed in a release. "Here in this city, I’ve been so proud of how we came together to combat this virus with a shared commitment to public health and keep one another safe. In the months and years ahead, it’s going to take that same collective effort to confront the economic devastation caused by this virus."
Breed thanked the members of the Economic Recovery Task Force, which was convened in early April by Breed and Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee to create policy recommendations and ideas to aid different parts of the community in recovering from the pandemic downturn. "We need to continue to translate these ideas into action so we can get people back to work and get San Francisco moving forward," she said.
Next week, on October 23, the SF Arts Commission is hosting a virtual workshop for local artists who are seeking grants in 2021, and more information about these basic income stipends should be available there.
The Arts Commission is also reportedly going to provide arts organizations with funding for safe reopenings, and it will fund the creation of "an online Arts Hub, which will serve as a one-stop-shop for artists and organizations looking for financial assistance, professional networking, and employment opportunities."
Also, this week, the Arts Commission opened four other grant programs for artists, arts organizations, and cultural facilities, and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development is making a $265,000 fund available for artists to paint "murals with a public health theme on boarded up businesses and deploy performance artists to promote COVID-safe behaviors in high foot traffic areas."
Given that only 130 basic-income stipends will be available, this could become a competitive and/or political process — and as Reason.com reports, that gets the hackles up for some proponents of universal basic income (UBI) programs who think they should be just that, universal.
But Max Ghenis, the founder and president of the UBI Center, tells Reason, "Sometimes the u [in UBI] also means unconditional. I think this does pretty much mean that. The people selected for the program, once they start to get it, won't be subject to work requirements or other kinds of requirements that are accessed on other types of programs."
Local artists of all kinds need all the help they can get — especially if they lost service-industry jobs during the pandemic that were helping pay the bills.
In addition to this program, the task force recommended multiple other programs that are being implemented immediately, including a small-business grant fund of $1.6 million to help restaurants and others purchase furniture and other items in order to meet public-health requirements for reopening.
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