Houston approves $2M in relief funding for arts and culture

Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council today approved $2 million in relief funding for creative businesses that are facing economic challenges due to COVID-19. Funding for the City of Houston CARES Act Program for Arts and Culture includes $2 million from the City’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.

The program is open to the 1,236 creative businesses previously vetted for grants from the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) that have suffered business losses due to the pandemic. Individual artists will be eligible to apply for a grant up to $1,000, and nonprofit organizations will be eligible for up to $15,000 in relief funding.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced closures and cancellation of hundreds of venues and events for arts and cultural organizations. Many creative businesses have been unable to secure relief funding through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

“The arts and cultural sectors have been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic and we need everyone to keep fighting to survive and be part of the city’s recovery,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Houston would not be the vibrant city that it is without the many artists and organizations serving our community and making it a cultural destination like no other.”

Before the pandemic, Houston’s nonprofit cultural sector was a $1.1 billion industry, employing more than 25,000 Houstonians. Houston’s arts and cultural attractions typically have 11 million to 16 million visitors annually. Event-related spending is pumped into restaurants, parking garages, hotels, and retail stores, along with the $57 million in local government tax revenues that are also being curtailed by the pandemic.

MOCA will utilize its long time arts services provider, Houston Arts Alliance (HAA), to begin accepting, processing, and ranking applications. HAA will distribute the funds in September and will handle all administrative duties by completing reports and documentation ahead of the federal deadline in December.

“The grants system through HAA is able to review applications from a large number of creative organizations quickly,” said Deborah McNulty, Director of the MOCA. “Over the last several years, MOCA has worked with HAA to update the grant processes to be more transparent and equitable. The 2020 grant pool is the most diverse it has ever been, including 32 percent first-time applicants and 53 percent with projects, programs, and overall missions that serve historically underserved communities.”

HAA will send out notifications to the 1,236 applicants on Monday, August 24, 2020. Artists and organizations can also verify eligibility at HAATX.com/support-desk.

Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is a local arts, and culture organization whose principle work is to implement the City of Houston’s vision, values, and goals for its arts grantmaking and civic art investments. HAA’s work is conducted through contracts with the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

For more information about COVID-19 related emergency financial help or the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs visit houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs. You can also follow MOCA on Facebook and Instagram @HoustonMOCA.