The Arts Department says it is fast tracking a third phase of relief funding for the industry to alleviate pressure on those hard hit by the ongoing lockdown.

To date, the department has implemented the first and second phases of the COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Nearly 5 000 practitioners were recommended for the first phase and over R80 million was paid out to the sector.

In the second phase and as of 14 December 2020, over R2 million was paid out to practitioners in the sector.

The department said 3658 practitioners benefitted from the Solidarity Fund, with a total of nearly R9 million that was paid out.

Through partnership with the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD), over R5 million was paid out to practitioners within the sector, with a further estimated R13 million to be disbursed by the end of March 2021.

Through the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP), there are several interventions being implemented throughout the country that are geared towards job retention and job creation.

The National Arts Council (NAC) has since approved a total of 352 applications for job retention, comprising 200 organisations and 152 individual beneficiaries.

The entity also approved a total of 126 applications for job creation that comprised 66 individual applications and 60 organisations.

From this approval 2475 jobs will be retained and a further 3 453 jobs will be created. Final results from the NAC of pending applications will be released before the end of January 2020.

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) are also in the process of adjudicating 891 applications that were received by the closing date of 10 December 2020.

The department will provide further updates as the process unfolds.

“In spite of our best efforts, the department is fully cognisant of the fact that there are many others who did not benefit from these programmes, given the department’s finite budget.

“With that said, we have and will continue to engage national organisations, in line with our open door policy.

“The department, alongside the appointed service provider, is also developing the rollout of an implementation plan to provide an Artist Wellness Programme to the sector… and will also provide other enhancement interventions such as personal or business financial management, legal support and lifestyle management.

“Information on the third phase of the COVID-19 Relief Fund, as well the Artist Wellness Programme, will be issued in due course,” Minister Nathi Mthethwa said.