Like so many, the pandemic has changed the life of actor and dancer Rena Riffel. The Los Angeles-based artist needed help with rent, supplies and advice when jobs suddenly dried up.
“As artists, we are already very fragile with our finances,” she said. “It’s like an up and down. So when the pandemic happened and everything came to a standstill for me and everyone else, there really is no hope. There is no opportunity. “
Riffel’s experience is reflected in a new Actors Fund survey that illustrates the profound needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the art scene. Released Thursday, it shows financial hardship, food insecurity and lost homes.
The survey of 7,163 people supported by the organization – including Riffel – found that 76% of respondents lost income and 40% reported decreased food security.
Around 28% fell behind on rent or mortgage, and 20% had to move. Ten percent of respondents had to sell a large asset like a house or a car.
“We see a long lasting impact on performing artists and entertainment professionals in the pandemic, especially those involved in live entertainment,” Joe Benincasa, CEO of The Actors Fund, told The Associated Press.
A massive 79% of respondents said COVID-19 had a negative impact on their mental health and had an increased feeling of anxiety or depression.
“For people who work in the gig economy and don’t always know when they will be back to work – this stress – the impact is huge,” said Benincasa.
The Actors Fund provides a national safety net for professionals in the performing arts and entertainment in the fields of cinema, television, music, opera, radio and dance.
It served more than 40,000 people last year, up 71% from 2019. More than $ 19 million in direct cash was distributed to approximately 15,000 people.
The Actors Fund helped Riffel obtain a scholarship to cover living expenses, gave her financial advice, directed her to more schooling and payment options, and offered workshops to expand her skills and offer wellness counseling.
“It really helped me stay focused and keep working on myself as an artist and being creative,” she said. “And just stay hopeful. I think that was the key to everything: just know that things are getting better. “
The survey with an error rate of plus / minus 1.2% was carried out by Morey Consulting. The median household income for all respondents was $ 34,186.
Benincasa credited the work of the Actors Fund in the years leading up to the pandemic to keep the loss of health insurance coverage relatively minor than expected. Only 10% of the respondents stated that they had lost their health insurance and would not have it replaced.
He said the market provided by the Affordable Care Act was a cause of the low rate, as was the Actors Fund trained advisors who were able to find affordable health care for customers.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that Broadway theaters can reopen on September 14th. Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show on Broadway, announced on Wednesday that performances would resume on October 22nd and tickets go on sale on Friday. More shows are expected to orbit the return flight dates in the coming weeks. The Actors’ Equity Association, the national union that represents more than 51,000 actors and stage managers in live theater, said the news meant the theater community was “one step closer” to the safe reopening of Broadway.
But Benincasa warned that more bad numbers are likely to be generated for those in the arts scene in the coming months. The fund is preparing for an increase in requests for direct financial support in housing construction.
“People will be slow to get back on their feet. You are in debt. You maxed out credit cards. You have to catch up on rent and mortgages, ”he said.
“I have a feeling that if the moratorium on rent and mortgage is lifted, I believe that the fall could have a serious impact on people’s lives and that we will see an increase.”
Benincasa credited his group’s social workers and staff for helping so many, especially in their dormitories, which include a nursing home in Englewood, New Jersey. He also thanked the people who hosted concerts and events to raise money for The Actors Fund.
“We are proud of the community for how committed they are to help us, to help people,” he said. Regarding the work of the fund, he said, “We will stick with it.”
In Los Angeles, Riffel said things are getting better for her. “I’ve started auditioning again,” she said. “Being an artist is really what nourishes my soul.”
She credits The Actors Fund for helping her through the dark ages. “If I hadn’t found my way to them, I don’t know what my life would be like because I feel like my life has improved in every way.”
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any way without permission.