Financial Survival for Creatives

Willie Nelson | Marymoor Park | Photo by Alan Crick

Last Updated: July 13, 2020

Sustaining Your Finances

No sector is more dramatically affected than the creative sector, especially the parts of it that consist of live events and gatherings.  As we occupy this new extended reality, our first step is to support each other in protecting our health and financial stability during this time of enormous change.

In March, Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).  This economic stimulus package includes a number of strategies for keeping business and employment intact during the crisis, while ensuring funding for individuals throughout the country in the form of a stimulus check and expanded unemployment benefits.Learn more about the whole package of federal stimulus efforts at this helpful CARES Act FAQ for individuals by the New York Times.  

Otherwise, maintaining your personal financial sustainability during this time depends on your situation.  You may end up accessing savings, suspending rent and utilities, applying for unemployment or SBA loans, utilizing mutual aid resources, or some combination.  Look below for more details on navigating the resources and options available nationally and locally. 

And if you are located in Washington State, consider signing up for a session with an expert from Artists Up, who can help navigate the available resources.

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Most people are eligible for a $1200 Economic Impact Payment from the IRS, and many have received the money automatically as a direct deposit or payment-by-mail.  

With the CARES Act, expanded unemployment benefits will be available for those who are unemployed or underemployed due to coronavirus, including historically ineligible workers, such as self-employed people and part-time workers.  


Eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefit at least until July 31, and it looks likely that it will be extended by the HEROES Act, for at least $300 per week.


See below on this page for more details on how to apply in Washington State. Or visit the Employment Security Department (ESD):

Independent contractors and other small business owners may be eligible for one of the SBA programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). While these programs are intended primarily to sustain payroll during the crisis, many sole proprietors and single-member LLCs have been eligible to cover personnel costs for themselves as well.


For more information on these SBA offerings, visit our page on Business Relief or go directly to the SBA site about coronavirus relief.

Rent: We do not currently have a As of June 2, Washington state has extended the moratorium on residential evictions through August 1. This includes a ban on late fees, other charges, or retaliation against tenents for late payment of rent. A similar moratorium on commercial evictions for small businesses and nonprofits has been ordered as well. 


Rental assistance may be available from the following:  All Seattle Kids Home, Byrd Barr Place, Catholic Community Services, Downtown Emergency Service Center, El Centro De La RazaJewish Family ServicesLifeWirePlymouth Housing GroupSolid GroundSaint Vincent de PaulSalvation ArmyUniversity Churches Emergency FundWellspring Family ServicesWest Seattle HelplineWorld Relief Seattle, YWCA Assistance Programs


Utilities: Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light - Utilities Discount Plan. Customers can request a deferred payment plan or apply for a utilities discount. Many other cities and utilities have similar plans. Washington state has requested that utilities don’t shut off your water, electricity or other utilities for non-payment if you’re out of work.


Phone & Internet: This Seattle/King County Resource Guide summarizes what phone and internet providers are offering right now from waived late fees to free unlimited data (p.5)


Tip: Connect to help on housing, utilities, food and more,  Washington Connection and WA 211 are there to help you find things like rent assistance, food and services.

Food Resources: Check out the Seattle-Area Emergency Food Resources Map for food banks, school food programs and other food access resources.


Food or other supplies dropped off at your front door: you can request aid from the Request Mutual Aid Support Group. You can also volunteer there.


Health & Healthcare: Find info on personal and public health, healthcare and insurance on our Personal Health & Safety page.  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.


Support on general needs:

  • United Way of King County has resources on food, legal services, job resources, bills and more.
  • Washington Connection and WA 211 are there to help you find things like rent assistance, food, bus fare, healthcare and other services.
  • Contact the Office of Civic Legal Aid for help including:  unemployment compensation, eviction & foreclosure, debt collection, and family safety & domestic violence.

The main tip on navigating credit and debt issues is to contact your lender directly and ask.  Most banks and financial institutions are offering some kind of suspension on payments and fees, reduced interest, or other relief but you have to call and ask.  It is worth the time on hold.


Student loans: You may be able to pause federal student loans.


Mortgages: Mortgage assistance and foreclosure prevention information for Washington state homeowners.


Loans, debt, and dealing with your finances:

Federal taxes: The IRS has postponed most federal tax filing and payment deadlines to July 15, and is allowing further filing extensions on request.  

They are also encouraging those who are due a refund to file ASAP.

These efforts are a part of the People First Initiative, a sweeping series of steps to help taxpayers by offering relief on everything from suspending installment payments, to halting liens and levies, to cancelling collections.


Local & State Taxes:  While we don't owe personal income tax in Washington State, small businesses and sole proprietors may pay B&O and/or excise taxes.  The Washington Department of Revenue is granting extensions on payments, but you must contact them to request the extension. 


Seattle's Finance & Administrative Services has also extended B&O filings and payments, and it is applied automatically without need to contact them.



  • The 4Culture King County Cultural Relief Fund will distribute $1 million. 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 first round of funding will be distributed beginning April 1 through May 15.
  • Artist Relief will distribute $5,000 grants to US artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19.
  • The Artist Trust Relief Fund: Rapid response grants supporting critical needs of artists whose livelihoods have been impacted by COVID-19. (This fund is currently closed)
  • 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. (This fund is currently closed)
  • More funding resources are available in our Resource Directory.

Washington state recieved a federal grant to support economic recovery from COVID-19. This program assists workers throughout Washington to get new jobs, receive training for in-demand careers, and get targeted help with their job search.


The program will:

  • Place laid-off workers into jobs that respond to or mitigate effects of the COVID-19 disaster including positions in emergency management, treatment and quarantine area set-up, unemployment claims intake, behavioral and developmental health, custodial services, delivery, food banks, shelters, and social and human services.
  • Provide workers with career coaches to help create customized re-employment plans,  job searches, and placement into jobs on the state’s COVID-19 essential jobs list and other high-demand occupations, short-term job readiness training for laid-off workers as well as longer-term training.

Contact your local WorkSource center via phone or email for more information.

While unemployment is really high, that doesn't mean that no one is hiring.  If you are looking for work, here are a few places to start...

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

Unemployment in Washington State

If you’re unemployed to due to the coronavirus, whether from layoff, reduced hours, mandatory closures, or a loss of self-employment income, you should apply for unemployment benefits.

As a worker in the creative economy, your main source of income is likely derived from your artistic practice.This typically lands you in the self-employed, or gig worker classification.

The unemployment benefit safety net was not originally set up to include self-employed individuals. Most in this classification seeking unemployment find their first application is initially denied. Once that denial has been received, they apply for expanded unemployment benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Some people experienced this notification immediately and others report that it took a few weeks. Workers are encouraged to submit weekly claims as soon as they apply initially.

Here is a helpful Seattle PI Article on applying for unemployment:

The unemployment office requests that you apply online, if possible, due to a high volume of applications. As the employment office is experiencing a record number of applications, they also suggest you apply during off hours (very late at night or very early in the morning). These are times when their system has less traffic and could potentially speed up your application process.

Phone: 800-318-6022

Be sure to have your Social Security Number handy.

Tip: There are reports of long hold times, confusion about filling out the application, and what options apply to the Covid-19 allowances/eligibility. ESD is aware of these delays. If you receive a denial that doesn’t necessarily mean you have been denied. Their customer service people will follow up with you.

ESD recognizes that their forms may not have the questions you’d expect for your category and recommend you apply anyway. They are not set up yet to accept applications for self-employed and sole-proprietors and suggest if you are in that category, you sign up for alerts.

If you encounter these or other barriers, do your best and keep trying. It is more important to file an application that may be incorrect or incomplete than to not submit at all. The ESD systems will catch up with this crisis soon. Set aside a chunk of time each day to manage the administrative side of this crisis.


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

On this page:

COVID-19 Handbook for Creative Industries

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