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Measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 virus outbreak in culture and audiovisual sector in Estonia

6. May 2020 - 16:00
Ministry of Culture
Ministry of Culture

Together with cultural and creative sector, Estonian Ministry of Culture is continuing mapping the situation and possible consequences for culture, cultural heritage, audiovisual field, media sector and for sport sector. The overall aim of mitigation and support measures is to preserve the structure of cultural and sports sector and avoid reduction of wages and unemployment. First discussions have already started to see for horizontal post-crisis measures.

General economic measures adopted by the Government on March 19 followed by supplementary budget act submitted to Riigikogu (Parliament) on April 2.

Estonian government introduced the first package of economic measures to alleviate the huge impact of the spread and prevention of coronavirus on the economy, and to support and protect working people and companies. The detailed package of measures and supplementary budged is EUR 2,62 billion euros.

Additional batch of longer-term measures including possible tax cuts and investment package is planned, however several decisions have already made bringing forward Government investments in different sectors.

The first support package includes labour market support, sickness benefits, tax benefits and allows tax arrears to be deferred for 18 months. It also includes the temporary suspension of the second pillar contribution to the pension fund and the partial reimbursement of the direct costs of the cancelled events. State funds are channeled to support businesses through financial measures and direct support measures.

Labour Market Support Measure is channeled via the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (total of the measure EUR 250 million) and is intended to help employers to pay salaries and not to fire their staff.

  • Each qualifying company or institution will be eligible for the grant for a period of two months from March 1 to May 31 2020.
  • The allowance shall be paid monthly up to a maximum of EUR 1,000 per worker requiring assistance.
  • The allowance shall be paid, as a general rule, at 70% of the gross wages of the employee over the period of the previous 12 months, plus at least EUR 150 payable by the enterprise to the employee.
  • In order to qualify, two out of three conditions must be met: the turnover compared to the same period last year is less than 30%; the reduction in workforce is at least 30%; or the cuts in wages is at least -30% for at least 30% of the employees. No employee may be fired during the period of payment.
  • The measure covers both public and private sector.

Tax administration measures include:

  • The abolition of the advance payment of social tax for self-employed persons for the second quarter of 2020.
  • The calculation of tax interest is suspended by the state for two months (March-April).
  • Payment of tax arrears is deferred for 18 months (currently up to 6 months) and with a lower interest rate on tax arrears.

Reimbursement of sick days for employees from the first to the third day of sickness insurance (currently without pay) for the period March-May 2020, total allocation for this measure EUR 1.5–2 million per month.

To support businesses, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications provides assistance in the supplementary budget through two institutions:

  • Kredex Foundation financial measures include loan guarantees for bank loans already issued (EUR 1 billion), working capital loans (EUR 500 million) and investment loans (EUR 50 million). These measures will become accessible for business in stages. More information can be found here: https://kredex.ee/en/koroona
  • Financial support for micro- and small enterprises (SME-s) and tourism enterprises is provided by Entreprise Estonia.
    • SME-s have the possibility to apply for a support (from 3000 to 5000 euros) for partial compensation of a small entrepreneur’s damages as a COVID-19 crisis support. The support is for micro enterprises whose 2019 turnover was at least €20,000 and at most €100,000. The total amount for supporting SMEs is 35 million Euros. Additionally, the support mechanisms for product development will be simplified. 
    • Support mechanisms for tourism enterprises, in the total sum of 25 million Euros, is directed at the target groups that were most affected and hurt by the crisis and whose business activities have stopped or been significantly damaged due to the suspension of travel. Additionally, it is possible to apply for support to develop tourism business models.
    • More information can be found here: https://www.eas.ee/covid-19/?lang=en

Specific support measures for culture and sport sector
 

The size of the crisis package in the field of culture and sport is 25 million euros and is provided by Estonian Ministry of Culture. The package consists of two parts:

  1. Subsistence support for natural persons in the field of culture and sport with the total amount of 5.2 million euros:
    1. Support scheme for freelance creative people is additional 4,2 million euros allowing to support (with minimum salary during 6 month period) of up to 1200 persons in 2020. The detailed conditions of application and qualifying criteria are set in existing Creative Persons and Artistic Associations Act that is amended according to the crisis situation. This support scheme excludes students and pensioners, also those with employment contracts/regular income.
    2. Support scheme for children and youth coaches at professional qualification level 3 and higher is in total 400,000. The support is intended to help to cover the staff costs of a coach supervising children and young people up to and including the age of 24 at the preparatory level, training level and mastery level on the basis of an employment contract for a sports federation, sports club and sports school. Applications are processed by the Sports Training and Information Foundation.
    3. Support scheme for mentors of dance groups and choirs participating in the song and dance festival movement is 600,000. The labor costs of conductors, folk dance directors, assistant conductors, concertmasters, piano accompanists, leaders of folk music groups will be paid to the collective member with up to 70% of his/hers average salary, but not more than 1000 euros per gross month. The support may be paid for the period from 1.03.2020 to 31.05.2020.
  2. The partial compensation of the costs already incurred due to cancelled events or cessation of activities of culture and sport organisations both in public and private sector; also the partial compensation covering unavoidable fixed costs of the organisations that had to close their doors. The total amount of the scheme is 19.8 million euros and the grants will be distributed in proportion to the amount requested by all applicants in specific sector as set below. The applications can be sent from May 8th  to 18th  and the support decisions will be taken in 30 days.
  1. The support scheme for museums is 6 million euros. The grant is foreseen for all museums, regardless of their form of ownership including state museums, municipal museums, museums of a legal person in public law, as well as museums operating as a foundation or non-profit association.
  2. The support scheme for theaters is 4 million euros. The support can be applied for by a performance institution regardless of the form of ownership or previously received operating grant from the state budget. Amateur theaters are excluded.
  3. The support scheme for music field is 4 million euros. The target group is concert and festival organizers, music groups and individual performers, but also support services in the field of music, such as sound and studio services, agency and management services, music publishing and also public concert venues (with certain restrictions). The support is intended to foundations and organizations receiving public support, as well as for private or non-profit who do not receive public support from the state budget. Both self-employed persons and legal entities whose main activity has been organizing of live concerts for the last three years are eligible, provided they have paid the royalties correctly.
  4. The support scheme for design is 500,000 euros. The measure supports micro and small companies of designers, self-producing designers. Support will be given to design companies whose company has been active in the field of material-based design for at least three years, has an average annual turnover of at least 25,000 euros in the last three years and who preferably creates innovative form-based products with export potential.
  5. The support scheme for visual arts is 600,000 euros. The target group of support are exhibition institutions and professional service providers in visual art field who have been operating for at least 6 months prior to the crisis. Support service providers refer to all those legal entities whose services or activities contribute to the professional art life in Estonia by supporting the work of artists or art institutions - including renting studios for artists, production of works of art, installation, publishing activities related to art exhibitions, development activities, etc.
  6. The support scheme for film is 1.3 million euros. To goal of the scheme is to support the film production and distribution companies and art house cinemas, who have received grants from Estonian Film Institute.  The companies whose production (development, shooting, post-production) and distribution has been interrupted due to an emergency situation.
  7. The sport field and physical activity events will be supported with 2.7 million euros.  This includes extra measure of 800,000 euros to support the sports federations as their funding from the gambling tax, private sector and organizing events is declining due to the crisis. Also, an extra measure to support the leagues and the clubs through the sports federations has been planned with up to 1 200 000 million euros. A special measure for competitions organizers to help to cover the costs of cancelled/delayed events will be up to 300 000 euros. There will be an extra measure to support the private owners of the indoor sport infrastructure. This measure will amount to 400 000 euros.

Estonian Government has allocated additionally 100,000 for the Estonian Public Broadcast ERR to ensure the ability to make recordings of cultural events, such as smaller theater productions during an emergency situation, and to obtain licenses to show already recorded performances and audiovisual content.

Support measures for literature and publishing
 

There has been an increased need for library services during the crisis period. Additional support of 300,000 euros has been allocated to libraries and Estonian Children's Literature Center in order to give libraries additional ability to buy more books and thus help publishers. For example through the Estonian Children's Literature Center, libraries who participate in the reading program "Reading Content”, are able to purchase additional books to be distributed through county libraries participating in the program (89 libraries at the moment).

Additionally, the budget for the library loan compensation at the Author Compensation Fund (SA Autorihüvitusfond) will be increased by 100,000 euros.

Estonia has also launched a pilot project for its own audio books in co-operation with the National Year of Digital Culture 2020 with a total budget of 50,000 euros.

Within the supplementary budget, number of amendments have been made that help the sector  - the reduction of VAT to 9% for e-books and e-publications, and additional funds for natural persons in creative sector.

Processing of regular applications and grants
 

Some of the calls for applications in support of cultural and creative and cultural heritage sectors managed by the Estonian Ministry of Culture have been suspended or the submission deadlines postponed. However, other calls remain open as planned before the crisis. The Ministry of Culture will not request reimbursement of funds already used to carry out activities that have been cancelled or changed due to circumstances related to the spread of coronavirus. Every such case will be dealt with on case-by-case basis.

The Cultural Endowment continues receiving applications and issuing grants and evaluating reports as planned. In addition, the Cultural Endowment offers a measure by which sectoral endowments and county expert groups have the right to allocate additional special scholarships to creative and sports people recognized by the field and / or the county to maintain their activities. The amount of scholarships ranges from 500 to 2000 euros per person. It is also possible to apply for support for procure medication from Cultural Endowment during the state of emergency.

Restrictions
 

Government restrictions in arts sector

  • As a general rule all public and private cultural institutions are closed to the public until May 17th. This includes cinemas and other cultural institutions. All theatrical performances, conferences and all sorts of gatherings banned. Day-to-day work within the organizations can continue (rehearsals) according to the instructions of the heads of the institutions. An exception is granted for some libraries who can provide some services while avoiding physical contact with people.
  • From March 27 also all entertainment venues like nightclubs, bowling, billiard rooms, hookah cafes, adult clubs are closed. Restrictions also apply for rental agencies. Restaurants and bars that provide food must close at 10 pm. However home delivery is allowed.
  • No public events will take place in Estonia in May and June. Until 31 August, no major/mass events will take place in Estonia. It is too early to confirm whether events with a limited number of visitors can take place in July and August. The members of the government will make a decision on the possibility and conditions for public events during May. The government's views are based on and in line with the recommendations of the Scientific Council.
  • From 11th of May, visits to the indoors of museums and exhibition halls are permitted, subject to special conditions. Admission to the open-air museum exhibits and to the museum's courtyards is permitted since May 2. Visitors are allowed in groups of a maximum of 10 members. Exceptions for families. The 2 + 2 rule must be followed, hand sanitizers must be provided in the establishment and surfaces frequently touched by visitors must be wet cleaned. In the case of interactive exhibits, the authority must take measures to ensure that the exhibits can be used safely without COVID-19 infection. Alternatively, interactive exhibits may be kept closed. Because the virus can also spread from contaminated surfaces, visitors are not allowed to distribute flyers, for example. It is also not allowed to organize creative workshops and workshops with shared tools. The Ministry of Culture, in co-operation with the agencies and the Health Board, has prepared a code of conduct, which sets out both mandatory minimum requirements and additional recommendations.
  • From May 15th the libraries will be open, subject to special conditions.

Government restrictions in sport sector

  • As a general rule all organized sports and exercise activities are prohibited until May 17th . This includes hobby activities, hobby schools. Competitions are not allowed.
  • Sports halls, sports clubs, gyms, spas, swimming pools, day centers and children's playrooms are closed 17th of May.
  • Co-training should not be performed indoors.
  • From 2nd of May the organization of open-air sports activities and trainings are allowed provided that there are a maximum of 10 participants in the group and the 2 + 2 rule is followed. The organizer of sports activities must ensure that disinfectants are available. In the case of minors, each group must be supervised by an adult coach or tutor. For activities with high intensity or higher speeds, the recommended distance between people is 20 meters (eg running sections, cycling, etc.).
  • Since 5th of May, all candidates of the Estonian national team in their respective discipline are allowed to train indoor while respecting that the maximum limit of the training group is 10 people including the coach and other support personnel (except the sports where in the team there is more people), there is at least 10m2 per person and disinfectants available etc.  The sports federation need to chose maximum 2 training venues in Estonia, needs to have the permission of the owner of venue and submit it with the list of athletes, coaches and other support personnel for the approval of the National Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Culture.
  • Students can study independently with distance learning or with the help of online materials.

Restrictions in public space and movement

  • Parks, nature trails, open-air sports facilities are open. Since March 28th , all shopping centers are closed except shops for food and critical services, pharmacies, some post offices, from May 11th  they will be open again.
  • Due to high level of corona outbreak in Saaremaa and Muhu islands, Government has issued additional restrictions in those areas that are gradually lifted again.
  • No more than two people (except family members) are allowed together in public place, there must be at least 2 meters apart (including indoor public spaces). The owners of the public facilities must assure that those requirements are followed. Public gatherings are allowed from May 18th.
  • Some local governments (Tallinn, Tartu) have imposed additional restrictions (playgrounds) that are lifted gradually.

Government Exit Strategy
 

On April 27 the Estonian Government approved the COVID-19 crisis exit strategy, which creates a framework of coordinated approach across sectors, to mitigate the effects of the emergency situation declared on March 12 and transition period following it. The Strategy has four goals: to ensure the physical and mental health of the people;

  • to ensure the livelihood of people and return to regular life;
  • to support the coping and continued competitiveness of enterprises;
  • to ensure the functioning of the society and the state.

The actions are divided to three stages:

  • the escalation of the infection outbreak (passed);
  • the stabilisation stage – where it is possible to slowly roll back the restrictions that have been imposed since the start of emergency situation (current stage);
  • the returning to everyday life, which also includes readiness for another possible disease outbreak.

The restrictions will be eased and lifted in stages when certain conditions are met and if the agreed metrics allow it for each stage. The Metrics include the number of people infected; the number of people hospitized; occupancy of intensive care beds; availability of medical care; people´s readiness to follow the general guidelines; general health of economy; capability to implement confidence measures like general testing, isolation, 2+2 rule; the epidemiological situation in the region and abroad. 

Exit Strategy: https://www.kriis.ee/sites/default/files/news-related-files/the_strategy_for_exiting_the_situation_caused_by_the_spread_of_covid-19.pdf (PDF)

 

Other useful links:
 

The Ministry of Culture is gathering and promoting opportunities for cultural consumption from home. Please see: https://www.kul.ee/en/culture-you-can-enjoy-home

Please see more about general economic measures:
https://www.kriis.ee/en/economy-and-business

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