San Francisco to pay artists $1,000 per month in economic relief

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a new pilot program that will benefit the city's artists with monthly cash payments.

In a partnership between the city and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, approximately 130 of San Francisco's hardest hit artists will qualify for $1,000 per month in economic relief.

"From the first day the pandemic arrived in San Francisco, we knew that this health crisis would impact artists, and artists of color in particular," said Breed. "Our artists make San Francisco special, and bring so much life and energy to our city. The arts are critical to our local economy and are an essential part of our long-term recovery. If we help the arts recover, the arts will help San Francisco recover."

The payments will last for six months, beginning in May of 2021. Applicants are asked to apply online before the deadline on April 15. 

There has been growing interest in launching programs that provide a basic income to certain vulnerable populations. Oakland announced it would begin one of the largest experiments by making $500 a month available to 600 families for 18 months. That program will be open to low-income families of color. Marin County will provide $1,000 a month to 125 low-income residents for two years.

To qualify for San Francisco's program, applicants must meet certain requirements. An artist is someone who "actively engages with the community through music, dance, creative writing, visual art, performance art, installation, photography, theater, or film."

Deborah Cullinan, CEO of YBCA, touted the "innovative funding methods" to support artists. 

"Artists must be given adequate resources to focus on creative output and reinvest in their communities as they navigate the ongoing challenges of living and working through a pandemic," her statement said. "Our learnings from the Pilot will be used to advance the wider movement advocating for unrestricted cash payments that provide financial stability to those who need it most, including artists."

The program is one of several guaranteed income programs under development by the city. It's the first program to guarantee income for artists.

Other programs include tranining for EMTs, funding for Black and Pacific Islander expecting mothers as part of the Abundant Birth Project, and funding for members of San Francisco’s Black and African-American community as part of the Mayor’s Dream Keeper Initiative.  

The city's arts and culture sector generated $1.45 billion and supported 40,000 full-time jobs, said Ralph Remington, Director of Cultural Affairs at the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Besides funding for artists, Breed previously announced $24.8 million from the budget surplus going towards preventing cuts to arts and culture programs.

Breed directed $2.75 million to the Arts Relief Program, and later announced plans for $12.8 million in grants to provide funds to over 220 arts and cultural organizations.

The city is also providing arts organizations with funding to reopen safely through the creation of an online Arts Hub, which serves as a one-stop-shop for artists and organizations looking for financial help, professional networking opportunities, and employment prospects. The Creative Corps pilot program was also launched, which employs artists by commissioning them for pandemic-related campaigns.

KTVU's Christien Kafton contributed to this report.