COVID-19 Relief for NYC Art Galleries, Artists, and Art Workers

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Marina Gluckman
Marina Gluckman signed this petition

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Commercial art galleries, artist-run exhibition spaces, and not-for-profit exhibition spaces across the city of New York have been hit hard by the recent slow down in the global economy as a result of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 outbreak. Nearly all have had to cancel or indefinitely postpone exhibitions, opening receptions, performances, and other events at their physical, brick and mortar exhibition spaces. These businesses are effectively closed, unable to meet with clients or access their inventory, significantly limiting the hours in which they are regularly open to the public, and postponing or canceling their planned participation in upcoming local, regional, and international art fairs. The cancellation of these events is resulting in loss of revenue at all levels of the industry now, and will continue to do so in the immediate future, over the course of the rest of the year, and until the pandemic has stabilized. 

Most art galleries are small businesses with dependent employees, networks of artists, as well as freelance and contract employees who rely on revenue generated from art gallery sales. The continued loss of revenue due to the unfolding pandemic will make it increasingly difficult for these businesses to support their full-time, part-time, and contract employees as well as their artists. Without the financial support of the local, state, and federal government, these businesses will not be able to pay their employees, support the artists that they represent, pay their bills, and pay their rents and/or mortgages on the spaces in which they operate. If no action is taken, these businesses will not survive and many artists and art workers will be left without a system of support.

Like many independently owned local businesses, art galleries are an irreplaceable part of the cultural landscape of New York City.  Through their exhibitions and events, these spaces provide a free public service for many communities throughout the city. As common places for culture, they contribute to New York’s reputation as an exciting destination for tourists to visit, and help make the city a competitive option for businesses of every sector in search of new locations to compete.

On March 8, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced two relief initiatives for small businesses in New York City that are experiencing a reduction in revenue because of COVID-19. These initiatives, called the NYC Employee Retention Grant Program and NYC Small Business Continuity Fund have very specific eligibility requirements that restrict many small businesses, and as a result, the networks of laborers they support, from qualifying for assistance.

To be eligible for the NYC Employee Retention Grant Program. Businesses, including non-profits, must:

  • Be located within the five boroughs of New York City
  • Demonstrate that the COVID-19 outbreak caused at least a 25% decrease in revenue
  • Employ 1-4 employees in total across all locations
  • Have been in operation for at least 6 months
  • Have no outstanding tax liens or legal judgements

To be eligible for the NYC Small Business Continuity Fund businesses must:

  • Be located within the five boroughs of New York City
  • Demonstrate that the COVID-19 outbreak caused at least a 25% decrease in revenue
  • Employ 99 employees or fewer in total across all locations
  • Demonstrate ability to repay the loan
  • Have no outstanding tax liens or legal judgements

Art galleries, like other organizations that make up the culture industry, and many small businesses more generally, rely on networks of specialized laborers who understand the specific needs of their commercial dealings. Most of the time, these laborers are freelancers who provide their services to businesses throughout the community. They are web designers, graphic designers, preparators, art-handlers, carpenters, photographers, plumbers, electricians, writers, consultants, just to name a few. Additionally,  art galleries, like many small businesses, do not generate income through a predictable stream of sales for goods the way other retail stores, bars, and restaurants do. They generate their incomes through commercial invoices, which makes their revenue irregular and dependent on a fluctuating stream of payments.

These business structure complexities highlight the need for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to take further action to provide financial relief for ALL small businesses throughout New York City. The NYC Employee Retention Grant Program and NYC Small Business Continuity Fund leave too many small businesses ineligible for assistance.

We, the undersigned, are seeking:

  • The immediate development of an additional grant relief initiative from the city for small businesses with business structures similar to art galleries. This initiative must be designed to provide financial relief for small business owners without employees as well as small businesses, like art galleries, who support full-time employees, part-time employees, contracted freelancers, and artists.
  • The immediate development of an additional grant relief initiative from the city for sole-proprietors and small businesses that may not be incorporated and have incomes that flow through an individual or couple’s personal income. 
  • An exemption for small businesses like art galleries, whose losses may not be visible right away, to qualify for the zero interest loans offered by NYC for businesses with fewer than 100 employees, without having to prove 25% sales decreases. 
  • An exemption for small businesses like art galleries, whose losses may not be visible right away, to qualify for the Employee Retention Grants offered by NYC for businesses with 1–4 employees, without having to prove 25% sales decreases.
  • Emergency Medicare for all, to ensure that the public’s health, safety, and welfare in the face of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the highest priority of our government.
  • Rent forgiveness for commercial tenants—small businesses or sole proprietors—until the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resulting economic depression have ended.  This could be offset by a property tax credit for landlords which would offset their loss in rent.
  • A freeze on mortgage payments for small business owners who conduct business from within their own property until the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resulting economic depression have ended.
  • Utility bill (i.e. the cost of electricity, water, and gas) forgiveness until the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resulting economic depression have ended.
  • Insurance bill forgiveness for business related insurance policies until the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resulting economic depression have ended.

IMPORTANT: After you sign the petition you will be asked to make a donation to help promote the petition.  Please note that donations received through this page do not go directly to the galleries and individuals in need.  All money raised through this petition, and change.org on behalf of this petition, will be used by change.org to promote the petition on change.org.