We recognize this is a confusing and challenging time for our collective community and want to extend our support to everyone being affected. Please visit our dedicated webpage for a list of resources that offer emergency relief and other fund support to freelance artists experiencing significant income loss. As members of the Performing Arts Alliance with other national arts organizations, we are also signatories on a letter to the National Endowment for the Arts in support of ensuring Congress include the arts and individual artists in the distribution/consideration of any emergency relief funding. (We encourage you to contact your local government officials and add your support as well.)

In the meantime, we’d like to outline what the American Composers Forum (ACF) is implementing in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Beginning on Monday, March 16, we will be closing our physical office in St. Paul, MN until further notice. We are encouraging all employees to work remotely and moving meetings, panels, and consultations to digital platforms.

ACF is committed to continuing to serve our large national community, and doing so in a way that supports public health. Please consider kind, anti-racist, and ethical responses to this global crisis. We will update this webpage as the situation progresses.

Below are key details from our full plan. Please reach out to us with further questions or concerns. We encourage you to visit the Staff page on our website to get in touch with a specific staff person directly.

It has been heartwarming to see the artistic community mobilize quickly in support of each other: advocating for, funding, supporting, and showing up at this time of need.

Thank you for being a part of this vital ecosystem and supporting our community.


Updated February 1, 2021

ACF Wellness Resource Page

General Resources and Preparation

Resources and Emergency Funds by Region

Most relief funds listed will invite you to apply or donate. Please click on the link if you are interested in applying for a fund or donating to a fund for more information.

East Coast





West Coast

Emergency Funds (National) 

The Federal Resources and Response

CDC Covid-19 Updates

National Endowment for the Arts Resources

Relief Package #1:Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (signed into law 3/6/2020)

The SBA’s Economic Injury Loan Program has received additional funding to provide disaster relief loans related to COVID-19, with eligibility for nonprofit organizations. Local applicants should contact their local district SBA office to pursue this process. Applicants must be in a declared disaster area, and states have to first apply to the SBA to initiate eligibility. Here’s the list of those states that have completed the process so far.

Unemployment Benefits Guidance was expanded by the federal government on March 12, giving states the flexibility to expand their unemployment benefits coverage to include COVID-19 related worker displacement. These changes are being made state by state. Some states have announced their intention to also develop new support for self-employed workers who are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Consult your state department of labor for more details.

Relief Package #2: Families First Coronavirus Response Act (signed into law on 3/18/2020)

This package has a central focus on paid leave for workers, and relief for employers (including nonprofit employers) that provide the paid leave. We are still reviewing the legislation for how it may directly impact the creative sector and particularly creative freelancers. Here are some general highlights:

  • Funding for nutrition assistance programs. Funds are designated for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Also, there is a provision to allow state plans to provide food assistance to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price meals if not for their schools being closed due to the COVID-19 emergency. 
  • Funding for the Senior Nutrition Program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Provides approximately 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors, including those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, who depend on the Senior Nutrition programs in their communities. 
  • Reimbursement for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and services provided to those without health insurance
  • Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Funds will cover the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing for veterans receiving care through Medical Services or through Medical Community Care.
  • Job-protected leave. Government employees and employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees* who have been on the job for at least 30 days will have the right to take job-protected leave. The leave can be used for quarantine due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; to care for an at-risk family member quarantined due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; and to care for a child of an employee if the child’s school or child care has been closed or is unavailable due to coronavirus.
  • Emergency transfers for Unemployment Compensation administration. The bill provides $1 billion for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Health plan testing coverage. The bill requires private health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider, urgent care center, and emergency room visits. Also, Medicare Part B and Advantage, TRICARE, Medicaid, and CHIP must cover expenses for provider visits during which a COVID-19 test is administered or ordered. 
  • Tax credits for paid sick and paid family and medical leave. The bill provides for a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified paid sick or family leave wages paid by an employer for each calendar quarter. The tax credit is allowed against the employer portion of Social Security taxes. The credit applies to amounts paid to employees who are sick or quarantined; a lesser credit applies to amounts paid to employees caring for a family member or for a child whose school or place of care has been closed. Caps and limits apply.
  • Tax credits for leave apply to self-employed individuals, too. Self-employed individuals qualify for the refundable credits, too, including those who must self-isolate, obtain a diagnosis, or comply with a self-isolation recommendation for coronavirus. Again, those self-employed individuals caring for a family member or for a child whose school or place of care has been closed due to coronavirus, are allowed a lesser refundable tax credit. As with employees, caps and limits apply.

Relief Package #3: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act  (Signed into law on 03/27/2020)

The largest COVID-19 federal relief package yet was signed into law today, March 27, 2020, and includes new forms of support that can be accessed by arts organizations and self-employed individuals. Forms of federal support that have traditionally been more limited are now expanded to offer opportunities for the nonprofit sector and workers in the gig economy, including many self-employed musicians, to find relief amidst the COVID-19 crisis. While these forms of assistance are meant to be rapidly available, more details will be needed as federal agencies sort out the fine print.

The full bill text is available online and the U.S. Senate provides a section-by-section overview of key provisions.

Highlights of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Paycheck Protection COVID-19 relief loans, backed by the Small Business Administration (Section 1102), and forgiven by the federal government (Section 1106): Organizations, including 501(c)(3) nonprofits, and self-employed individuals will have access to forgivable loans, through a streamlined application process intended to provide rapid relief that will keep workers on the payroll and help self-employed workers.

Loans will be provided by local lending institutions that are authorized by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The bill gives the SBA and the Treasury Department authority to identify additional lenders. Eligible organizations are subject to a size cap of up to 500 employees (counting individuals employed on a full-time, part-time, or other basis). The maximum loan amount is $10 million.

Loans may cover expenses incurred beginning February 15, 2020 and ending on June 30, 2020. Loan payments will be deferred for at least six months and up to one year, and the term of the loans will be up to ten years, at no more than 4% interest. Eligible uses of the loans include payroll costs (including salary, wages, compensation, leave, severance, health care benefits, insurance premiums, retirement benefits, and state and local taxes), rent, utilities, and mortgage interest payments.

Applicants may apply to their lender for loan forgiveness. The Senate summary states that a, “borrower shall be eligible for loan forgiveness equal to the amount spent by the borrower during an 8-week period after the origination date of the loan.” The portion of the loan that can be forgiven will be reduced by an amount related to positions that have been eliminated and wages that have been reduced, unless those positions and wages are restored by June 30, 2020.

Similar forgivable loans will be made to self-employed individuals.

Employee retention credits (Section 2301) may be available to employers that do not make use of the forgivable SBA Payroll Protection loans. Employers may be eligible for a quarterly refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis, applied to the first $10,000 in compensation per employee (resulting in a credit of up to $5,000). The extent of the credit and eligibility requirements vary depending on whether the employer has more or less than 100 employees.

Industry Stabilization fund loans (Section 4003) may be available to nonprofits with 500 or more employees that commit to restoring 90% or more of their workforce within four months of the end of the national public health emergency. Additional requirements will apply to future workforce conditions–some of them related to collective bargaining agreements–and will merit careful consideration. Loans will be available at an interest rate of 2% or less, and payments would not be required for the first six months.

Pandemic unemployment assistance for workers, including self-employed individuals (Section 2102 and Section 2104): Unemployment benefits will be expanded to provide an additional $600 per week above the amount allowed under state unemployment benefits, for four months. New relief will be available for workers not eligible for state unemployment benefits, including self-employed individuals who are unable to work due to a number of COVID-related reasons, including “the individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.” Very many musicians and arts workers who otherwise do not have access to state unemployment benefits may find relief through this provision. Covered dates of unemployment are from January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Details will be worked out in guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor, and this relief will be administered by states.

Relief for nonprofits that self-insure unemployment benefits (Section 2103): Some orchestras are among nonprofits that self-insure unemployment benefits rather than pay state unemployment taxes. The federal government will make payments to states to reimburse nonprofits for half of the costs they incur through December 31, 2020 to pay unemployment benefits.

New charitable giving incentives (Section 2204 and Section 2205): Building on years of advocacy by orchestras in partnership with the broader nonprofit sector, a new universal charitable deduction is available, allowing the growing number of taxpayers who do not itemize their returns to receive a tax deduction of up to $300 for cash charitable donations to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations during calendar year 2020. For taxpayers that itemize returns, the limit on the total percentage of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) eligible for the charitable deduction has been lifted. The limit on corporate contributions has been lifted to 25%.

Dedicated funding for cultural agencies and institutions:

 National Endowment for the Arts: $75 million to administer for COVID-19 assistance. Of the total, 40% of funding will be administered in partnership with state arts agencies, and the remaining resources will be delivered through direct NEA grants. The agency is authorized to make grants to support general operating expenses, and matching requirements may be waived for grants. The NEA will be rapidly providing more information about grant opportunities.

  • National Endowment for the Humanities: $75 million to administer for COVID-19 assistance. Similar parameters as NEA COVID-19 grants.
  • Institute for Museum and Library Services: $50 million.
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting: $75 million.
  • John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: $25 million.
  • Smithsonian Institution: $7.5 million.

Support for Freelancers

We know that this current situation is presenting financial hardship for individuals and organizations but we do ask the presenting organizations in our community to be mindful of the particular strain the response to COVID-19 may put on livelihood individual artist who rely on income from commissions, residencies, performances to support themselves and their families and do what is in your power to do to honor your contractual relationship with these members of our artistic community. Visit this link at Springboard for the Arts for more thoughts on how to support freelancers.

ACF Response to Covid-19
Grant Processes

If you are applying to the McKnight Visiting Residency program we are also extending the amount of time for an email or letter of support from your project partner until Friday, May 8, 2020 to be emailed to Billy Lackey. If you have questions, please email Billy Lackey, VP of Programs, wlackey@composersforum.org.

Panel Participation

  • Panels will continue to be scheduled and move to virtual meetings until further notice.
  • Panelist orientations will be conducted remotely through a variety of remote options, including webinars, conference calls, and 1:1 phone calls.
  • Award notifications will be sent on the published notification dates listed on our website.


ACF Calendar


  • ACF staff will maintain regular working hours remotely.
  • Email is the best form of communication to reach ACF staff. Refer to the staff page for individual emails.


  • ACF’s main phone line will continue to be available during regular working hours.
  • ACF’s website will have a page dedicated to information about our plans to respond to the health crisis, and will be updated to reflect updated plans as they change, which we will also share through other communications channels.