Info on Unemployment and Financial Help for Creatives

Willie Nelson | Marymoor Park | Photo by Alan Crick

Last Updated: April 2, 2020

Resources on unemployment, help if you’re having trouble paying, rent, utilities, loans, and more.

The Stay Home, Stay Healthy measures restricting all gatherings and events are serious and are needed to slow the growth of infections and to save lives. They also have a tremendous impact on people in the creative community. As we all move into this new reality, our first phase is to support each other and protect our health and financial stability during an enormous change.

Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on 3/27/20 that includes individual checks to American households. Most adults will get $1,200, and children under 16 $500, although some would get less, based on income. You do not need to do anything to apply. You can check these FAQ.


Apply for unemployment: If you’re unemployed to due to the coronavirus, whether from layoff, reduced hours, or the mandatory closures, apply for unemployment benefits which can partially replace your regular earnings.

  • Apply in Washington:
  • Here is the latest WA Employment Security Department FAQ on unemployment benefits in our state.
  • The CARES Act bill passed 3/27/20 improves unemployment benefits, including providing an additional $600 per week for the next four weeks, providing an additional 13 weeks of federally funded benefits, and expanding eligibility to include workers in the gig economy and self-employed workers.
  • US CARES Act Unemployment FAQ with specific sector explanations of some of the unemployment expansions including:
    • Unemployment compensation support for Nonprofit Organizations that have “reimbursable arrangements” with state unemployment programs (p2)
    • Self-employed workers and workers in the gig economy eligibility for unemployment compensation (p2)
    • Unemployment benefits for workers in the performing arts and other industries that were about to start new contracts and had them canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak (p3)
  • The governor announced a waiver of the one week waiting period to receive unemployment insurance, retroactive for claims filed up to March 8.
  • The webinar, Navigating State Unemployment in a Pandemic: Standby, Partial Work, and Shared Work via the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, covers information both for employers and employees. (Note the presentation starts at the 28 min mark).

There are reports of long hold times for the phone, and confusion and questions on filling out the application and what options apply to the new situation and eligibility. If you encounter these or other barriers, do your best and keep trying. It is more important to file the application that may be incorrect or incomplete than to not submit something at all.

The information will be verified by your employer. The unemployment office and systems will catch up with this crisis soon. Set time aside each day to work on the administrative elements of this crisis, but not your whole day.

Rent: Washington state has put a stop on residential evictions for 30 days. In Seattle this includes no late fees or other charges for late payment of rent. A similar moratorium on commercial evictions for small businesses and nonprofits has been ordered as well.

Utilities: Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light will keep utility services on and customers can request a deferred payment plan. Many other cities and utilities have also similar plans and the state has requested utilities don’t shut off your water, electricity or other utilities for non-payment if you’re out of work.

Taxes: Internal Revenue Service extended the income tax filing due date from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest. The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.

Childcare: This Seattle/King County Resource Guide summarizes available child care options (p.8).

Help with debt, loans, food, and other needs:

If you are concerned about your health or the health of a loved one, visit the King County Public Health COVID-19 page, or call the King County Public Health Hotline: 206-477-3977.

Please understand that we are all, every one of us, in a fast moving, unprecedented situation. New details on the shape of local, state, and federal aid, including direct support for the people and industries most affected, are emerging every day. But the system is overwhelmed and it may take some time for details to be finalized, for you to be able to connect to these systems and to figure out what support you are eligible for.

Relief funds for individual artists and creatives: 

  • The 4Culture King County Cultural Relief Fund will distribute $1 million over the coming months. Applications are now open to individuals who reside in King County and can demonstrate current and ongoing work in the fields of arts, heritage, preservation or public art and organizations whose primary mission relates to arts, heritage, or preservation.
  • The Artist Trust Relief Fund: Rapid response grants supporting critical needs of artists whose livelihoods have been impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Seattle Artists Relief Fund Amid COVID-19: fund helping the greater Seattle arts community who have been financially impacted by cancellations due to COVID-19

Resources by Creative Industry

Check this list of Resources by Creative Industry for relief funds, industry-specific information and other support for artists and the creative sector.

Creative Community Resource Lists and Funds

Here are some additional broad lists with support, funds, and other information:

Know of other resources?

We know there are gaps and resources we haven’t discovered yet, and we’re working fast to add more. If you have a resource to add, please let us know about it in this form.

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