Britain’s Art Bailout

Posted by on Jul 15, 2020 in People and Culture, World

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a devastating toll on the global economy. The U.S. Congress used the CARES Act to provide financial assistance to businesses and cities, to help them get back on their feet during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown. But Great Britain is taking this idea a step further, by announcing a $2 billion financial aid package for the arts. Here, btw looks at the specifics of why the British government has decided to rescue theaters and museums, and how it plans to do it.

Why the Arts?

COVID-19 affected the performing arts community very hard. Theaters were shut down entirely during the quarantine. Now, they are beginning to reopen. However, strict social distancing rules mean that they will be unable to reopen at far below their usual capacity. The same is true for museums. This is especially true in Europe, where the museum buildings are often old and people are generally packed in closer together. And when a theater or museum is only allowed to sell a small percentage of its available tickets, it becomes very difficult to maintain financial profitability.

 view of the facade and entrance of the British Museum in London, England,
The British Museum in London, England is one institution that is getting aid from the British government. Credit: Claudio Divizia/Shutterstock

Why is this a big deal? Aside from the value that arts and culture offer a society, many of Britain’s historical theaters are also tourist attractions. Their loss would be culturally and economically devastating. So the British government hopes that making an investment in them now will pay benefits in the future.

What is the Money For?

Theater and museum directors are not limited in how they spend the money. It can be used on maintenance and upkeep of buildings, and it can also be used to pay the salary of employees so that they won’t have to be laid off from their jobs. It is important to note is that while $2 billion sounds like a lot of money, it still isn’t enough to ensure that every employee in every theater and museum in the country will be able to receive a paycheck. Many will still lose their jobs.

Help From Other Places

Private companies have begun to donate funds as well. One such business is Netflix. Netflix, like Amazon, has seen some benefits from the coronavirus crisis as quarantined people are using their service to stream a lot more television. Netflix is donating $625,000 to help unemployed freelance theater workers who don’t otherwise qualify for government support.

What Do You Think? The money for Britain’s arts bailout will probably ultimately come from one source: the taxpayers. In your opinion, is spending $2 billion to help theaters and museums a good use of taxpayer dollars? Why or why not? Please remember to be respectful with your answer.