Mayor Breed Announces Launch of Guaranteed Income Pilot Program for San Francisco Artists

The City is partnering with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to implement $1,000/month economic relief program for approximately 130 San Francisco artists hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications are open through Thursday, April 15, 2021.
A faded image, tinted red, of a female dancer. Overlaid over the image is the text "guaranteed income pilot."

San Francisco, CA - Mayor London N. Breed today announced the launch of a new guaranteed income pilot program for San Francisco artists. As part of San Francisco's economic recovery and efforts to support the arts, the cash relief program will support artists living and working in the City of San Francisco who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The City has partnered with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) to administer the program, and YBCA is now accepting applications for the pilot program. 

The artist guaranteed income pilot program will provide monthly payments of $1,000 to approximately 130 eligible San Francisco artists for six months beginning May 2021. Applicants must meet eligibility requirements listed on the pilot program website, and are invited to apply online through the April 15, 2021 deadline. For this program, an artist is someone who actively engages with the community through music, dance, creative writing, visual art, performance art, installation, photography, theater, or film. Teaching artists, arts educators, and culturally-based craft workers and makers are also encouraged to apply. 

"From the first day the pandemic arrived in San Francisco, we knew that this health crisis would impact artists, and artists of color in particular," said Mayor London Breed. "Our artists make San Francisco special, and bring so much life and energy to our city. The arts are critical to our local economy and are an essential part of our long-term recovery. If we help the arts recover, the arts will help San Francisco recover. This new program is an innovative effort to help our creative sector get through this challenging time, and come back even stronger and more resilient than before."

This pilot program is one of several guaranteed income programs the City is developing, implementing and evaluating to identify how to best support San Francisco residents and promote economic stability and recovery. This pilot program will be the first guaranteed income project in San Francisco to focus solely on artists. The other guaranteed income programs include funding for San Franciscans training to become EMTs, Black and Pacific Islander expecting mothers as part of the Abundant Birth Project, and members of San Francisco's Black and African-American community as part of the Mayor's Dream Keeper Initiative. 

Guaranteed income is an economic model that provides regular, unconditional cash transfers to individuals or households. This type of program differs from other social safety net practices by providing a steady, predictable stream of cash to recipients to spend as they see fit without limitations. This particular program provides cash payments to artists experiencing financial insecurity due to the pandemic.

“This Guaranteed Income Pilot is grounded in the understanding that artists and the cultural sector are the heartbeat of our civic life and must be supported through innovative funding methods,” said Deborah Cullinan, CEO of YBCA. “YBCA is committed to helping artists do what they do best – stimulate social cohesion, foster equitable economic development, and drive health and wellbeing in their communities. Artists must be given adequate resources to focus on creative output and reinvest in their communities as they navigate the ongoing challenges of living and working through a pandemic. Our learnings from the Pilot will be used to advance the wider movement advocating for unrestricted cash payments that provide financial stability to those who need it most, including artists.”

The Office of Racial Equity at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, YBCA, and Grants for the Arts and the San Francisco Arts Commission—deploying Arts Impact Endowment funds—have worked together to establish the program. YBCA has built a comprehensive and community-centered outreach strategy to ensure it reaches those hardest hit, including Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), immigrant, disabled, and LGBTQ artist communities. The program guidelines and outreach reflect the Grantmakers in the Arts’ Racial Equity in Arts Funding Statement of Purpose and San Francisco’s Cultural Equity Endowment Legislation.

“San Francisco’s arts and culture sector generated $1.45 billion in annual economic activity while supporting nearly 40,000 full-time jobs pre-COVID,” said Ralph Remington, Director of Cultural Affairs at the San Francisco Arts Commission. “COVID-19 has severely threatened this important sector, and the Guaranteed Income Pilot, with other programs like it, allows artists to focus on their creative work and supports the recovery of the sector overall. SFAC is proud to partner with YBCA and the Office of Racial Equity to launch this Pilot. YBCA’s decades of community engagement, history of collaboration and deep ties in San Francisco will help to ensure that these funds reach the artists in communities who have borne the brunt of the pandemic.”

“Arts and culture is one of the hardest hit sectors since the beginning of the pandemic and most of our artists still have not been able to resume their normal business activities,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “This program will serve as a bridge to sustain this sector as we recover because our City’s unique and rich art culture is one of the reasons why people from around the world come visit San Francisco.”

“To extend the guaranteed income program to San Francisco artists in our BIPOC communities is the right and just step forward in addressing racial equity. Arts and cultural are why we love and live in cities, especially San Francisco,” said Vallie Brown, Director, Grants for the Arts. “The opportunity to attend a world-class ballet, a powerful art exhibit at one of our cultural centers or attend a community festival or parade is something we take for granted until it’s gone. Giving artists a guarantee monthly income is truly investing in San Francisco’s recovery. Arts and cultural is San Francisco’s Golden Ticket to a thriving economy and vibrant communities.”

YBCA worked with the following organizations and individuals in designing this pilot program: SOMA Pilipinas; members of the Racial Equity in the Arts Working Group; Asian Pacific-Islander Cultural Center; Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco; Dance Mission Theatre; Galería de la Raza; San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company; African American Art and Culture Complex; and poets and writers, Tongo Eisen-Martin and Kim Shuck.

"This past year has been rough on so many levels, especially for artists living in San Francisco," said Rodney E. Jackson, Jr., Co-Founder of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company (BATCO). "This guaranteed income program will give artists of San Francisco newfound economic stability, the power and dignity to make their own choices as artistic and financial contributors to society, and the mental ease of not worrying where or when the next meal may come." 

This guaranteed income program for artists supports San Francisco’s economic recovery, and is part of the City’s broader efforts to support individual artists and arts and culture organizations, particularly under represented and often under resourced artists and organizations. In October 2020, the City’s Economic Recovery Task Force (ERTF) issued their policy recommendations for San Francisco’s recovery, which included recommendations to identify new funding and revenue sources for the Arts, to invest in BIPOC communities, and to catalyze neighborhood recovery through the Arts. This pilot program is aligned with the ERTF’s recommendations. In its intent and implementation, this program takes steps towards realizing all three of those recommendations to support artists and promote an equitable economic recovery.

The City, under Mayor Breed’s leadership, has supported San Francisco artists, and arts and cultural organizations with various grant programs throughout the course of the pandemic. Most recently, Mayor Breed announced $24.8 million from the City’s budget surplus will go towards preventing cuts to arts and culture programs. Early on in the City’s response, Mayor Breed directed $2.75 million for the Arts Relief Program, and later announced $12.8 million in Grants for the Arts funding for more than 220 arts and cultural organizations. The City is also providing arts organizations with funding to reopen safely and has funded the creation of an online Arts Hub, which serves as a one-stop-shop for artists and organizations looking for financial assistance, professional networking, and employment opportunities. Additionally, the City has launched the San Francisco Creative Corps pilot program, which has employed artists by commissioning them for COVID-related information campaigns.

More information about the guaranteed income program and application is available online: ybca.org/guaranteed-income-pilot/

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