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Cuyahoga County Announces $4 Million In COVID Relief For Arts Programs

Playhouse Square and other Cuyahoga County arts organization have taken a financial hit during the pandemic. [Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock]
Playhouse Square and other Cuyahoga County arts organization have taken a financial hit during the pandemic.

Cuyahoga County arts and cultural organizations and local artists can now request funds through a new $4 million grant to offset losses due to COVID-19, county executive Armond Budish announced Friday.

Two-thirds of the money will go to Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC), which would be distributed to the area’s arts and culture nonprofits.

Arts Cleveland will receive the balance of the grant to support individual artists and to distribute to for-profit performing arts venues.

“It’s not just about the economic hit,” Budish said. “Arts and culture is really the heart and soul of our region.”

Arts, entertainment, and recreation is a $1.35 billion industry in Cuyahoga County, he said.  It employs more than 10,000 people, but Budish said a third of them have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, the highest percentage drop for employment in any industry.

“Imagine a Cleveland without our world-class arts institutions or your favorite music club that’s just around the corner, or your favorite performance space, or the artists that are so important to the fabric of our lives,” Budish said.

The primary mission of any organization that receives funds must be centered in the arts and culture sector, he said. Organizations and artists can apply at arts-cares.com, and must be able to prove financial losses due to COVID-19 that haven’t been addressed through the Paycheck Protection program or another public health program.

The emergency fund will likely attract dozens of applicants. 65 non-profit organizations funded by CAC reported laying off, furloughing or cancelling the contracts of over 2,500 people, because of the pandemic. More than twice that many would be eligible to apply.

ideastream is one of the many local organizations that receive funding from CAC.

Some organizations have closed, due to the pandemic, and others that have remained open are operating at such a limited capacity that they actually lose money, Budish said

With COVID-19 cases increasing rapidly in Cuyahoga County and across the region, it doesn’t look like it will get better any time soon.

“This is going to be a long, hard winter for many of our beloved artists and culture spaces,” Budish said.

He announced the new funds during a Cuyahoga County Board of Health news briefing on Friday, where health officials also addressed the county’s higher COVID-19 risk level, which moved from Level 2 to Level 3 this week.

In September, the Cuyahoga County averaged 50 cases per day. Now, the average is 70 new cases per day, health officials said.

Part of the increase is due to people having larger gatherings, said County Health Commissioner Terry Allan. That’s leading to more community spread.

“With COVID fatigue clearly setting in, we’re seeing people expanding their social circles,” Allan said. “We know people are tired of this virus, I’m tired of this virus. We need to stick with our prevention playbook and do our part to keep our community safe.”

The spike extends well beyond Cuyahoga County, Allan said, with 29 counties representing two-thirds of Ohio’s population now living in Level 3, or red, counties.

“Infectious diseases don’t pay attention to borders or recognize boundaries on maps,” Allan said.

Summit and Stark counties also moved from orange to red this week, and gatherings are also an issue there, according to Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

Most of the spread is coming from informal gatherings with friends and family, where people aren’t wearing masks, she said. 

Skoda is concerned that businesses may have to shut down again if people don’t start limiting their social circles. 

“Now, more than ever, we have to stop getting together with people,” she said.  

Residents should limit their outside activities to one per day – such as going to school and making trips to the grocery store, Skoda said.

Stark County was also designated Level due to a high incidence of cases, according to the state’s public health advisory system.

A spokesperson for the Stark County Health Department said they are having a hard time keeping up with contact tracing calls due to the recent spike in new cases. 

Neither Summit nor Stark county officials plan to release any new guidance or restrictions for residents at this point.  

Ideastream reporters Anna Huntsman and David C. Barnett also contributed to this report.

lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158