Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, the Gaeltacht, Arts & Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, today demanded answers from Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin on the failure to significantly increase uptake of the Music & Entertainment Business Assistance Scheme (MEBAS) ahead of the already-extended deadline of this Wednesday.
The Dublin South Central TD said:
“Minister Martin has made a big deal of announcing millions in supports for artists and musicians over the course of this pandemic, but artists and musicians are not receiving the funding they have been promised. Even those who have been granted MEBAS funding are left waiting weeks without seeing one cent.
“In the case of the €14 million allocated to MEBAS, there has been such little uptake from musicians and entertainers that it looks like the vast majority of this might not be used to help those in need.
“This is in part due to extra obstacles that do not exist for other support schemes like the CRSS, SBAS and new ECSS schemes: the poorly explained eligibility criteria and application process, the demand that applicants prove a high level of business costs for a year where trade was prohibited, and recipients being publicly named in a way that those benefiting from other schemes are not. The exclusion of businesses with turnover of less than €20,000 rules out those who need it most, as I highlighted when it was first announced.
“It is also not clear why, when other business supports were set up under the EU’s temporary Covid-19 framework on state aid, the government chose for MEBAS not to come under the same framework, and clarity is needed on how this different treatment could affect the funding set aside for musicians.
“Unlike previous live performance support packages, MEBAS is not a competitive process where music sector workers are pitted against one another, and crew and production teams are also eligible, but these positive changes have not been made clear to potential applicants.
“Incredibly, despite a promise to ease confusion and encourage more applications by extending the deadline for applicants until Wednesday, the Department’s dedicated web page for MEBAS still gives the old closing date, so musicians looking for information there are told the deadline passed two weeks ago and that it’s too late.
“It is imperative that the Department puts this to rights, extends the deadline further and actively engages in recruiting applicants.
“It has now been almost 500 days since musicians had any opportunity to work, and it is unforgivable that, after struggling for so long to make ends meet, they appear to be forgotten by a Department solely concerned with reopening hospitality and tourism. Some are beginning to ask if the MEBAS was designed to fail so the money can be spent elsewhere instead.
“Serious questions need to be answered if Minister Martin hopes to regain the confidence of the music industry. She must also act to ensure that musicians who avail of one-off Live Performance Support Scheme funding are not forced off the Pandemic Unemployment Payment into job-seeking status and, most importantly, by calling a halt to the cruel plans to cut PUP for musicians before even providing them with a timeline of when they will be allowed back to work.”