Impact of epidemic on CCI - SLOVENIA

/prepared on 28 May 2020/

The European Commission estimates that the cultural and creative sector (including CCI) will be among the five most affected sectors due to the world epidemic. The members of the European Union have therefore already taken several measures to mitigate the effects of the epidemic in this sector. The spread of the COVID-19 virus in Slovenia is currently slowing down, so the Government on 15 May 2020 announced an end to the epidemic, which was declared on 12 March. Nevertheless, the impact on the national economy (including culture) will be immense, even though no proper statistics or forecasts are available at the moment.  

 Three “anti-corona” legislative packages for a rapid financial assistance  
The active measures to mitigate the consequences of the epidemic also for the cultural and creative sector are provided by the Act Determining the Intervention Measures to Contain the COVID-19 Epidemic and Mitigate its Consequences for Citizens and the Economy (ZIUZEOP). The intervention legislation generally provides financial resources for tax, social and economic measures to help organizations and individuals affected by the epidemic.

 The law entered into force on 11 April 2020 and remained in force until the end of May (with the possibility of extending some of the measures until 30 June). The Government adopted three “anti-corona legislative packages”: first and second anti-corona package were mostly focused on preventing unemployment. When adopting the first set of intervention measures, the Association (advocacy non-for-profit organisation for cultural sector), together with other initiatives, pointed out the possibilities for improving the measures to make them more adoptable for the field of culture. A set of measures concerned (also) organizations and individuals in the cultural and creative sector and provided them with a basis for overcoming the crisis period, naming some of them:

- Self-employed cultural workers and freelance journalists whose business has been affected by the crisis were entitled to a monthly basic income in the amount of 350 EUR for March and 700 EUR for April and May. The state also covered their social security contributions for April and May (dedicated budget 5,8 million EUR).
- For temporary lay-offs, the state covered the entire pay compensation, meaning 80% of the average full-time wage in previous month (March-May), and social security contributions.
- Sick pay of all those who fall ill during the crisis was fully covered by the public health insurance rather than employers having to cover the first 30 working days of absence.
- Exemption from compulsory contributions for pension, health and disability for workers who continued to work during the epidemic and received a salary (contributions covered by the state). A worker who worked during the epidemic received so called “monthly crisis allowance” of cca. 200 EUR net.
- Reimbursement of salaries to workers for whom employers are temporarily unable to provide work (waiting workers), reimbursement of wages to employees who are unable to work due to force majeure, and exemption from compulsory health insurance and social security contributions for such workers.
- Workers who have lost their job during the epidemic will automatically be entitled to unemployment benefits from the first day on.

 One of the key measures of the third anti-corona package is subsidising short-time work. With this measure, the Government aims to encourage businesses to restart their production processes and thus help flatten the unemployment curve. The first is compensation for temporary lay-offs for companies in the tourism and hospitality industry whose revenue, in their estimation, will decrease by more than 10% compared to 2019. The second measure comprises vouchers to support tourism and which are to be granted to all Slovenian citizens. Those over 18 years of age will receive vouchers in the amount of EUR 200 while those younger in the amount of EUR 50. The vouchers can be redeemed until 31 December 2020 for overnight stays with breakfast provided by hotels, holiday homes, campsites, tourist farms and all other similar short stay accommodation facilities. The package also includes measures to provide liquidity to companies; the Slovene Enterprise Fund and the Slovenian Regional Development Fund will enable soft and quick loans.  

Local communities
As far as legal measures are concerned, local communities in Slovenia have very limited legal powers, which relate exclusively to the establishment of public institutions in the field of culture and the proclamation of monuments of local importance. Local communities should follow the Government’s provision on a 30% reduction in spending. Currently, the local communities are focused on the activities of stakeholders, the founder of which they are: ensuring the payment of the work of employees and the incurred program and material costs. All other financial mechanisms (open calls for cultural and creative sector) are in process. In Kamnik regular open tender for cultural projects in 2020 was already announced, the selection process was concluded and the contracts are being prepared.  
Initiatives in the field of culture and creativity  
Representatives of the sector and other non-formal initiatives are daily proposing the Government to implement additional emergency measures! Beside Asociacija as a network organisation all other relevant stakeholders are reacting towards the measures for CCS, naming some of them:

- The Slovenian Film Center and The Association of Film Directors has submitted a proposal for measures for the audio-visual (AV) field, which would prevent the stagnation of the film industry.
- 27 music organizations and festivals addressed a call to the Government and other competent bodies to save the music sector.
- Unformal group of cultural workers organised via social media promptly reacted towards the Government and the Ministry of Culture to implement additional measures for culture. The group as well initiated a solidarity fund (based on personal contributions not national financial resources) for all individuals (working as self-employed or by contracts) to overcome the crisis.  

Nevertheless, the dialogue with the Government is far from being mutual; on 26 May 2020 many cultural workers (organised as a non-formal Active of Cultural Workers) gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture and protested against the lack of efficient respond by the ministry and its governance. The Active wants more tailored made measures for CCS, such as possibility of extending the public cultural programs and projects in 2021; extension of the assistance in the form of basic monthly income for the most affected cultural workers; extension of waiting for work and subsidized short-time work also for culture (as in the tourism sector); additional financial supports for the self-employed in culture; introduction of vouchers also for attending cultural events (as in the tourism sector).

 New problems on the horizon … decrease of national budget
The spread of the COVID-19 virus in Slovenia is currently slowing down. Many cultural organisations are re-opening their venues for public (cinemas, theatres, music halls …). The instructions provided by the Government and the National Institute of Public Health are not clear and coherent; cultural producers are daily facing various interpretations what is allowed (at this moment public events for not more than 50 people). The Kamnik Tourism, Sport and Culture Agency gathered cultural protagonists in the city (public institutions, NGOs, self-employed artists) to prepare an open-air cultural program and thus bring back the culture to the citizens of Kamnik.  

Due to the severely deteriorating indicators of economic trends the Government suspended the implementation of the budget for all direct budget users for the period of preparation of the supplementary budget from 14 April. The provision of a 30% reduction in spending for all direct budget users does not affect those projects and programs for which (e.g. NGOs) have already concluded contracts with ministries. In future the decrease of national budget will probably affect the financial "transfers to non-profit cultural organizations and institutions", such as museums, libraries … and projects by the cultural NGOs and individuals. The perspective for CCS is not promising.

Recommendations for CCI in Slovenia read more here