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King County emergency budget includes new push for arts sector

Jim Levitt
Alex Dugdale tap dancing with Max Holmberg on drums.

Over the next few weeks, the King County Council will be considering a $57 million emergency supplemental budget from County Executive Dow Constantine. Within it is a new push to support arts and culture workers and organizations. 

If passed, the bulk of the spending package would send $33 million to continue funding facilities to isolate COVID-19 patients in treatment and recovery. An additional $16 million would be directed in support of small businesses, arts and culture groups, and programs for homeless youth. 

That includes a $2 million boost for 4Culture to support the arts. In addition, another $2 million would be directed to support science and arts education groups, as well as live music venues. It’s not yet clear how that portion will be split among those groups.

Max Holmberg is a drummer in Seattle facing a sharp loss in income from canceled concerts and teaching opportunities. 

“I don’t think anyone knows how long this is going to go on for," Holmberg said. "And without two-thirds of my regular income I’m going to keep seeking out other ways to make money, whatever that may be.”

Holmberg estimated he would lose $4,000 in income for the month of March, and said that number has since ballooned. He said he has received some support from fundraisers in the community, but that has only replaced about a third of his lost income.

More than 70 percent of artists who responded to a surveyfrom Artist Trust reported they had lost income due to COVID-19 in March. Now, more than 2,000 artists from across the state have applied to the organization’s relief fund, according to a recent statement. Shannon Roach Halberstadt, CEO of Artist Trust, worries the fund won’t be able to keep up with the demand. 

“When you’re looking at the number of folks who are applying and the amount of money that is needed, and comparing that with the amount of money Artist Trust currently has, it just pales in comparison,” Halberstadt said.

Applications to Artist Trust’s relief fund currently total $4.8 million. Only 12 percent of applicants to the fund would receive relief at the current rate of requests, according to a recent statement from Artist Trust. The fund totals $525,000.

Constantine’s emergency package could add some new support for artists. 4Culture, which would receive $2 million from the supplemental budget, has a relief fund for artists and arts organizations. As of Thursday, 4Culture had received applications from 790 individuals for $1.39 million in relief and 279 cultural organizations requesting $1.84 million. 

Holmberg said he is waiting to apply to more arts support funds until he hears back about his application for the new expanded unemployment benefits. 

“I really have no idea what to expect," he said. "So I’m just waiting to see how that plays out right now.” 

Constantine’s emergency supplemental budget is set to be reviewed by King County Council’s Committee of the Whole at its next meeting on May 5 and could receive a vote the following Tuesday. 

Numerous other fundraisers from around the state and nation are available to artists and arts organizations. A comprehensive list has been compiled by Northwest Folklife here, as well as Americans for the Arts here.

Arts & Culture Coronavirus Coverage
Rebekah Way is an on-call news host at KNKX. She began her career in public radio as a news intern at KNKX, where she's also worked as an interim producer and reporter. Rebekah holds a life-long passion for music and also works as a professional musician and educator in the Seattle area.