While the theatre community looks ahead to brighter days, the arts-focused human services organization The Actors Fund has released results from a survey of 7,163 people who received pandemic-related assistance through February 28 of this year. The results illuminate the deep hardships felt by arts workers during a health crisis that brought drastic cutbacks and a shutdown of most live performance worldwide.
"The last year has exposed how vulnerable people in our community are," says Actors Fund CEO Joe Benincasa. "We need to continue to provide critical support while the industry safely returns to work, and we intend to continue to explore ways to ensure more access to our services going forward."
Negative impacts to mental health were the most reported hardship, indicated by 79 percent of respondents. This metric is exacerbated by a loss of health insurance reported by 10 percent of those surveyed. Of those without health coverage, 13 percent reported expecting to have health insurance in less than six months, 18 percent in six to 12 months, 17 percent in a year, and 11 percent in two or more years. Forty percent reported that they do not know when they will have health insurance again, and one percent reported that they expect to never have health insurance again.
The survey also identified significant financial hardship. Twenty-eight percent of respondents reporting falling behind in rent or mortgage payments, with 30 percent of this group one month behind, 16 percent three months behind, six percent four months behind, three percent five months behind, and 21 percent six or more months behind. Twenty percent of respondees were forced to change housing, with 68 percent of those affected moving to another state and 28 percent moving to another city. Four percent of this group moved outside of the United States. Forty percent of respondents also reported reduced food security.
The survey identified deeper impacts on BIPOC respondents, which represented 27 percent of the total surveyed. Results showed BIPOC workers were more likely to experience food insecurity, forced housing changes, and increased debts as compared to white respondents. BIPOC respondents were also slightly more likely to have lost health insurance.
The survey comes after The Actors Fund served more than 40,000 individuals in 2020, a 71 percent increase from 2019, distributing more than $19 million in cash to approximately 15,000 people representing 126 occupations in the entertainment industry. The Fund's emergency financial assistance service was the most accessed, with 56 percent of survey respondents reporting tapping into this lifeline. Also accessed by those surveyed were the Fund's Career Center services (18 percent), health insurance counseling (14 percent), financial education (10 percent), counseling and mental health services (seven percent), New York City-based health care (five percent), housing workshops (five percent), senior services (three percent), and housing (three percent). Fourteen percent of those surveyed had not used any of the listed services.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation to The Actors Fund, visit ActorsFund.org.