In 2009, as part of a larger economic stimulus, Congress appropriated $50 million to the N.E.A. Sixty percent of those funds went directly to grants for nonprofit arts organizations, while the rest went to state and regional arts organizations. The N.E.A. said that the grants helped preserve 7,000 arts jobs.
In Europe, politicians have also recognized cultural workers’ urgent need for support. On Tuesday evening, Arts Council England, which is supported by lottery revenue, announced a £160 million package — some $180 million — to help arts groups and workers in the country.
Support for freelancers, including artists and writers, has been made available in some countries like Germany. In Berlin, they can apply for a 5,000 euro grant, worth about $5,400.
In the United States, arts workers are pushing for any unemployment insurance and sick leave benefits included in federal legislation to be easily available to self-employed artists — people like Vickie Vipperman, an artist from outside Nashville, Tenn., who creates handwoven clothes and accessories. Ms. Vipperman has already lost a third of her annual income from canceled art fairs, and her husband, a guitarist, is seeing gigs disappear.
“It’s an abrupt stop in cash flow,” she said. “They’ve turned off the faucet.”
In the arts world, employees of every stripe have been hard hit, but administrators are also wary of asking for too much from a government dealing with shortages of critical health care equipment like masks, gowns and ventilators.
Ginny Louloudes, the executive director of the Alliance of Resident Theaters in New York, said that it’s already difficult asking the government to support the arts when there’s no pandemic. Now, administrators have to tread lightly.