Help For Artists And Freelancers During The COVID-19 Pandemic

By Claudia Meza (OPB)
March 31, 2020 9:38 p.m.

UPDATE: April 15 (04:19 p.m. PT)

So, how are you paying rent this month?


Like most self-employed people, working artists and freelance creatives are facing extreme financial hardships brought on by the ongoing pandemic.

This is a community hit especially hard by venues, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and coffee shops closing their doors. And with rent freezes and stimulus packages still sorting themselves out, assistance can't come soon enough.

The Laurelhurst Theater's marquee in Portland, Ore., on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The Laurelhurst, like many theaters across the nation, has temporarily closed its doors due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

The Laurelhurst Theater's marquee in Portland, Ore., on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The Laurelhurst, like many theaters across the nation, has temporarily closed its doors due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Claudia Meza / OPB

Artists and other creators are organizing their own funds to take care of their own. Arts-minded organizations have also stepped in to see how they are able to support and advocate for the hardest hit.

We pulled together a list of useful resources, with some help from our counterparts at KQED, which has this great page of resources for Bay Area artists.

We'll be updating this list as we hear of more opportunities. And also, feel free to email if you have any leads on more resources:

General Assistance

Here’s a good place to start. Do you need food? Money for the rent or a hand keeping your power on? One of these links should help.

COVID-19 Emergency Relief Resources for PDX (and Beyond) This list of resources was compiled by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer's office. It's geared towards those in the Portland area but also lists statewide and national resources listed. And it's not just for the self-employed creatives. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) This is a government resource that offers food benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families.

Oregon Food Bank Just type in your zip code to find your nearest food bank. They also list additional food resources on their page.

Impact NW / Home Forward / Community Action / Human Solutions These organizations provide rent and utility assistance.

  • Impact NW has programs throughout Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington County, Oregon and in Clark County, Washington.
  • Home Forward serves all of Multnomah County, including the cities of Gresham, Fairview, Portland, Troutdale and other East County communities.
  • Community Action is specific to Washington County.
  • Human Solutions is open to anyone in the East Portland/East Multnomah County area.

Funds for Artists of all Disciplines

RACC's Emergency Fund for Artists and Creative Workers The fund is open to artists at all levels of their careers, in a broad variety of disciplines. Applicants must legally reside in RACC's service area – Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties, Oregon. RACC will make awards up to $500 in order to support as many individual artists as possible, prioritizing those without access to other COVID-19 relief funds. Applications open on April 2, 2020, and should be submitted online no later than 5 p.m. Monday, April 13, 2020, for initial consideration. As new funds are donated and identified, RACC will award additional funds.

Artist Relief A coalition of national arts grantmakers is distributing $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19. Applications are now open for Cycle I, which closes at 11:59 pm ET on April 23rd.

Gimme Shelter Emergency Fund The fund is open to any Oregon based performers from any discipline (musicians, actors, dancers, drag queens, strippers, comedians, storytellers, firebreathers, singers, clowns...all performers) who have lost wages due to the Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19. Grants of $100-$500 will be dispersed for housing costs based on need. Applications are open.

Portland Area Artist Emergency Relief Fund This fund is currently for freelance/independent artists residing in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington. This fund is not for arts organizations or nonprofits.

Lane County Artist Relief Fund Any individual who receives income as a contracted artist/musician, teaching artist, production technician, or producer; lives in Lane County; and has lost income due to COVID-19 safety measures can apply. Applications are currently open.

Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Emergency Fund The Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Emergency Fund is intended to help those pursuing careers as artists or arts administrators whose income has been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This fund is for those who self-identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). Funds will be disbursed in the amount of $200 per person, on a first-come-first-served basis.

Foundation for the Contemporary Arts The FCA is creating a temporary fund to meet the needs of experimental artists who have been impacted by the economic fallout from postponed or canceled performances and exhibitions. Applications of the one-time $1,000 grants are accepted on a rolling basis.

PLUS1 COVID-19 Relief Fund PLUS1 is working with a collection of nonprofit organizations around the country to provide immediate assistance to: musicians, music industry folks, those whose physical health, mental health, safety and well being are most at risk to the impacts of the pandemic. Some of the partnering organizations offering emergency grants are MusiCares, Sweet Relief, and Trans Lifeline. This is a good jump-off point to many other available grants for musicians.

Funds for Musicians


Musician's Foundation Grant If you've been a working musician in the United States for the last five years, the Musicians' Foundation Grant offers help for emergency situations, including medical care or personal or family crisis. The foundation will pay recipients' expenses directly rather than writing them a check, and grants range between $500 and $3,000.

The Blues Foundation HART Fund This one is specific to blues musicians. The HART Fund offers financial assistance for health-related expenses, and artists need to call or email directly to apply.

The COVID-19 Oregon Musicians' Relief Fund The Jeremy Wilson Foundation is a musician's health and service nonprofit organization serving Oregon and Clark County, WA. The application period will open on April 6th and close on April 20th. There is a separate application process for the JWF Musicians' Emergency Healthcare Fund, which is also listed on their website.

Funds for Visual Artists

The Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Emergency Grant If you're a sculptor, printmaker or painter with over 10 years experience, the Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Emergency Grant program offers larger grants of up to $15,000 for unforeseen expenses. The application specifies that it's a one-time grant related to a specific emergency, such as fire, flood or medical needs.

A billboard taken over by street art in the Buckman neighborhood, Portland, Ore., on Thursday, March 19, 2020.

A billboard taken over by street art in the Buckman neighborhood, Portland, Ore., on Thursday, March 19, 2020.

Claudia Meza / OPB

Rauschenberg Emergency Grants Professional visual artists, media artists and choreographers living anywhere in the United States can apply for Rauschenberg Emergency Grants of up to $5,000 to cover unforeseen expenses. Please note that a panel reviewing the applications will begin to meet in May and June, so this program isn't the one for those with pressing, short-term needs.

CERF+ Artists' Safety Net Artists working in craft disciplines — including but not limited to clay, fiber, metal, wood, glass, concrete, plastic, synthetic fibers or recycled materials — can apply for emergency grants of up to $3,000 from the Craft Emergency Relief Fund. They must demonstrate that they've been making a sizable portion of their living from their craft for three years, or that they've been involved in traditional or folk art on an ongoing basis. Artists are asked to submit an inquiry form before they can apply.

Funds for the Performing Arts

The Actors Fund's Entertainment Assistance Program Any performing artist or entertainment industry professional is eligible for financial assistance from the Actors Fund as long as they either have a minimum of five years of industry experience (while making over $6,500 a year from their creative pursuit for three of those years) or 20 years of industry employment while earning at least $5,000 from it for 10 of those years. In addition to helping with rent or medical expenses, the Actors Fund offers information on affordable housing, health care services, landlord-tenant issues and more. Those interested must contact the Actors Fund directly to apply.

The Valentine Fund The Valentine Fund provides financial assistance to members of the Portland-area theatre community in times of medical or personal emergency. It's an ongoing and open application process.

Backstage COVID-19 Resource Page Backstage magazine has organized a helpful resource page with links to emergency funds and other resources specific to actors, performing artists, and creators in the entertainment industry.

Funds for Writers and Journalists

Authors League Fund Journalists, playwrights, poets and authors facing a sudden loss of income or unforeseen medical expenses in the United States can apply for emergency grants from the Authors League Fund. The grants prioritize experienced professionals who've either been published by traditional publishing houses or publications with national circulation or have had their work produced by mid-sized or large theaters. Funds are no longer available to dramatists but other resources are provided for them to follow up on. The amount of the grant is not specified and depends on the severity of the emergency.

PEN America Writers' Emergency Fund PEN America gives out need-based grants of up to $2,000 for emergency expenses to writers and journalists and has an additional program for those who are HIV positive. They have developed a new streamlined process for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, and expect to be able to review and respond to applications within 10 days.

Economic Hardship Reporting (EHRP) Emergency Fund The EHRP has created an emergency fund dedicated to the coverage of the coronavirus and financial hardship. It will also help afflicted journalists.

To apply, please contact

A closed sign on the window of Luce, an Italian restaurant in Portland, Oregon. On Monday, March 16, 2020, Gov. Kate Brown ordered restaurants and bars to stop all on-site dining and limit food sales to takeout and delivery service only to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

A closed sign on the window of Luce, an Italian restaurant in Portland, Oregon. On Monday, March 16, 2020, Gov. Kate Brown ordered restaurants and bars to stop all on-site dining and limit food sales to takeout and delivery service only to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Claudia Meza / OPB

Miscellaneous Funds

Oregon Community Recovery Grant Program The Oregon Community Recovery Grant program will provide funds to nonprofit organizations in Oregon that are particularly affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Currently, this fund has reached capacity but depending on donations, it could start up again. The Oregon Community Foundation is also a good resource and a site worth checking out.

Portland Small Business Relief Fund This first fund opened on 03/30/2020 and applications will close on 04/01/2020 at 11:59 p.m. but there will be more opening up. Enroll for updates if you work out of an LLC.

Restaurant Workers Community Foundation (RWCF) COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund This organization has a national fund available to restaurant workers and a robust resource page. This links to their resource page, their fund is the first listed. Other resources include One Fair Wage and the bartender specific USBG National Charity Fund.

Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC) COVID-19 Assistance BINC is offering assistance to book sellers and comic book retailers. There are funds for individual workers and businesses affected by the loss of wages due to the pandemic.

PDX Furloughed Theater Staff Emergency Fund If you are a theater worker who would like to inquire about being a recipient of this fund, please send a message through the GoFundMe page to Micah Vanderhoof. If you can donate, please do.

PDX Tip Jar (Service Industry) Not so much a formal fund as an opportunity for others to share a small act of kindness with the Portland service industry community. Members from this community are encouraged to add their names to the list to receive virtual tips.

Other Helpful Resource Pages: The Regional Arts & Culture Council The Jeremy Wilson Foundation Creative Capital Americans for the Arts

This story will be updated.