COVID-19 grants for individuals and small businesses in the creative sector

If you’re in the creative or cultural arena, and if your income has been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, you may qualify for government support – but don’t hang about: applications have to be made before close of play on 24 May.

A National Creative Relief Programme was announced last week by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development. The programme will provide financial grants to “independent individuals, small businesses and entrepreneurs in the fields of cultural and creative industries” specifically to help them weather the impact of COVID-19.

“The cultural sector is a priority for the leadership of the UAE,” said Sheikha Mariam bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chair of Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation (one of the organisations involved in devising the scheme). “The programme preserves the UAE’s cultural achievements and allows creative production to thrive and flourish.”

The National Creative Relief Programme is a result of a survey back in early April that sought to identify the issues. Apparently 90 per cent of respondents indicated that their biggest challenge right now is coping with fixed costs such as workspace rent, employees’ salaries, loan payments, meeting commitments to contractors and suppliers, and maintaining services to clients.

Do you qualify?

The eligibility criteria seem quite reasonable:

  • Both UAE citizens and visa-holding residents are eligible to apply, either as an individual or on behalf of a business.
  • Either way you need to hold a commercial licence from development departments or a free zone that was issued at least six months ago
  • In the case of companies, you need to have fewer than 10 employees and to have started before 2019.
  • Individuals should not have a full-time salary from anyone else (so your principal source of income should be your own business)

Are you in the right business?

That’s the other key issue, of course. There are apparently 25 qualifying sectors, but they don’t seem to be listed anywhere. The press release does say that businesses eligible to apply include:

  • “Natural and cultural heritage” which seems to mean “museums, monuments, historical places, natural heritage, cultural education, intangible cultural heritage” (most of which would be official institutions and probably therefore disqualified)
  •  Performing arts – so performances and performers, festivals, and (perhaps) some exhibitions or demos.
  • “Visual arts and crafts”, which covers fine art, photography, and “other ways of digital reproduction of works”
  • Press and literature – which we interpret to mean freelance writers and editors as well as small publishers of books, magazines, etc.
  • “Audiovisual and interactive media” including games, video, TV and radio, interactive media, etc. So podcasts and online publications should qualify here.
  • Design and creative services. That’s a big catch-all which includes fashion design, interior design, landscape design, architectural studios and services, graphics and advertising services, jewellery design, culinary arts, technology and software design. Sounds like Adobe freelancers, games coders and 3D visualizers would all qualify; we’re not so sure about social media influencers and YouTube channels.

How do you get a grant?

Whether or not you get a grant will depend on one or more factors – primarily evidence that you have lost income as a result of contracts or work being cancelled in March, April, and May; and some indication that you’ve tried to mitigate the problems yourself, for instance by drawing on reserves if you’re applying as a business.

You will need to produce quite a lot of documentation to prove that you have indeed been affected.

If you’re successful, how much you might get will depend on the evaluation of your situation and how much evidence you’ve been able to provide; but it will be in the range of AED 15,000 and 50,000. There’s no indication exactly how big the total pot is or how many grants will be made.

Apply via the MCKD website here before 24 May.

The CSR extra

This programme also has an element of social responsibility; “individuals, organisations and patrons who wish to contribute to the program as part of their social responsibility to local institutions in the spirit of giving back to the community” are encouraged to make donations to it. Developing a CSR spirit is a priority for the government; Engineer Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, Minister of Economy and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the CSR UAE Fund, said that supporting creativity and innovation has a key role in developing people’s competencies and innovative technological responses – so it’s in everyone’s interests.

On the other hand, Al Mansoori also said that CSR UAE Fund is keen to direct social contributions to sectors that enhance the development goals of the country at a federal and local level. That’s to be expected from a government minister, especially the one in charge of the economy, but the pragmatic and functional goal of helping the country punch above its weight makes for a slightly disappointing contrast to the intellectual and spiritual benefits of avoiding naked self-interest …

But let’s not quibble. This is a sound and sensible move from the government’s Cultural Councils group, the first such programme in the region and reasonably generous. So don’t delay …

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply