Frustrations Abound Seeking Economic Relief | COVID 19 and the Art Market

On March 27, the U.S. Congress passed the CARES Act into law in an effort to counteract the economic impact of the spread of COVID-19. This legislation includes $350 billion slated to help small businesses keep their employees paid while they are closing their doors to help slow the spread of the pandemic. The program to distribute relief funds to small businesses is named the “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP for short), and is to be administered by the Small Business Administration.

The promise of the PPP program is that these funds are made available quickly through a wide range of lenders, and that any of the funds used for payroll, rent, or utilities, are forgiven, so long as certain conditions are met.

As I examined the details of the program, it quickly became clear that it would benefit Xanadu Gallery and its employees, and that I should apply. I read about the application process and gathered documents in preparation for applying on Friday, April 3, the first available time to apply.

It was only when I reached out to my bank that I discovered things might not be as simple as promised. We bank with a small, regional bank, and my banker was uncertain the bank was going to be ready to process the PPP applications when the program came on line.

I knew it was imperative I apply early since the funds are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Once the $350 billion is allocated to applicants, no further funds are committed to help small businesses who aren’t lucky enough to have their applications accepted.

Sure enough, April 3 arrived and our bank wasn’t ready to accept applications, nor did it have a timeline for when it might be prepared. This was a problem because despite the fact that some bigger banks were ready to accept applications as the program began, they were limiting applications to those businesses who already have a business relationship with the bank.

Thus began a multi-day scramble to find a bank that would accept our application. By Tuesday, April 7th, I found that online funding services and were accepting applications. These services, however, don’t actually fund the loans themselves; instead, they package the application and wait for small banks to accept and process the loans.

I went ahead and completed applications with both services, but at the end of the application process received a generic notice that I would be informed once a bank was found – not very promising.

Throughout this process, our payroll company,, was providing updates on their efforts to provide the payroll history reports that are needed to apply for the loan. They announced they are also working to line up banks to process applications from their customers who weren’t finding it feasible to apply with their own banks.

On Thursday, April 9, Gusto announced they had secured a relationship with their first funding partner and could help process applications through the lender. I submitted an application through this avenue as well, and was informed at the end of the process that I would have a response from the lender within 72 hours. We’ll see!

I’m confident that Xanadu Gallery will weather this current economic storm with or without assistance, but there’s also no doubt that without it our business is facing a significant setback.

Xanadu Gallery April 2020 (green) vs April 2019 – dollar volume

We are continuing to make sales, and our March sales ended up being off by only a small percentage from our sales in March of 2019. April’s prospects aren’t quite so rosy. Our sales over the first 10 days of the month are off by over 68% from last year, and will certainly be dramatically curtailed as long as we remain closed, and beyond as the economy recovers.

I will keep readers of RedDotBlog up to date as we learn about the status of our application for relief.

Artists Should Be Applying for Relief Through the PPP and Other Programs

While the PPP program was announced as relief for small businesses, it’s important to note that included in the relief are self-employed individuals, gig-economy workers, and 1099 contractors. Depending on individual circumstances and the way taxes are filed, artists may be eligible for funds from the PPP program.

I encourage you talk to your bank and/or your accountant to see if you qualify, and if you should apply.

Additionally, I’ve received emails this week from artists alerting me to other grant and relief programs designed specifically for artists.

Special thanks to Tian Cheung for pointing me to this link from the New York Foundation for the Arts, which has resources for available arts related COVID-19 relief grants around the country.

Are You Applying for Relief?

Have you applied for a PPP loan? What has your experience been? Have you applied for or secured other relief? Are you aware of other resources artists or galleries should review when researching relief options? Please share your insights in the comments below.


About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. I’ve applied through Chase bank. It was a very dicey proposition as the form was terse. If people can’t get a small business loan, they have opened up unemployment benefits to to self-employed, contract workers, etc.. This would include artists. You have to keep checking your state’s unemployment site to see if they are set up to take those applications.

    I watched a video by a tax attorney who advised opening up (2) separate business banking accounts, depending upon which loans you get. She said to open one for the PPP loan and one for the EIDL loan. Each of these loans has a $10,000.00 grant/forgivable loan associated with it. However, you can only spend the forgivable $10,000.00 on qualifying costs such as mortgage interest, payroll, utilities, insurances, etc. The tax attorney suggested putting the $10,000.00 in its associated account and paying for qualifying expenses out of that account. That way, it will make it very clear to the SBA/IRS (who ever is going to be auditing how the money is spent) to show that the expenses qualify for loan forgiveness. In other words, it doesn’t muck up what you are spending the money on compared to putting it into your usual business account from where you pay a multitude of unqualifying expenses. It makes the accounting for qualifying expenses cut and dried. Also, be aware, they aren’t going to allow double-dipping of expenses across the PPP and EIDL loans.

    Also, if you get the EIDL loan, the borrowing rate is 3.75% up to 30 years. You can refinance that EIDL loan into the PPP loan, which is a 1% rate for a two-year term. In my case, the rub is that Chase offered the PPP application before hearing anything back about the EIDL loan, so I didn’t know how much from EDIL that I wanted to refinance on the PPP application. I just put in $10,000.00 to start. Hopefully, these banks are flexible, in that, people are guessing how to fill in these forms.

    Hold on, everyone, this is going to be a white-knuckle ride. All the best to everyone.

  2. In our county in Washington state, artists have gotten together to start an online art program. Just about every day there is an online concert, art show, movie, etc. scheduled that people can sign up to “attend” via their computer. Events are free but donations are requested to support the artists in each event. The artists, organizations, and businesses involved have put information on their websites, social media pages, and email blasts to promote the project. At least one friend who is participating has sold some art.

    Here’s a link:

  3. Hi, I’ll try to keep it short. I started with Bank of America, my bank, only to find out they had set up rules (that Congress did not) that you had to have both a biz account and a line of credit with them. Well I am proud that over the past 7 years I have accumulated no debt, and do not hold a line of credit with them. My reward for this sort of responsible behavior was that I was not qualified to apply for the PPP. This didn’t sit well with me, so I ran up to my local bank with cash in an effort to open an account so that I could apply through them, and as of that very day they were not accepting apps for any new accounts (probably because of the PPP.) So I went back and discovered that in that very HOUR B of A was compelled to change the rules because they had so many people screaming. So now there is a subset that allows you to apply with only a biz account. Which I did. I got through the whole application and hit submit and it the computer went into a grind for the next twenty minutes. I eventually closed out the window without ever knowing if the application made it through. And now there doesn’t seem to be any way to check on it for confirmation. Ok, then I went to California EDD and applied for unemployment for self employed, which was never possible before. I’m not sure if they just didn’t have the self-employed form created yet, or if I did it the right way. All I got was a regular form, so I filled out myself as the employer. Got a notice that they would be contacting my previous employer by phone, that’s me! lol Haven’t gotten a phone call yet, we’ll see. I’m feeling pretty pessimistic about this whole thing. The money was granted by Congress, but whether we will actually see any of it remains to be seen. Good luck everybody, time to get UBER CREATIVE!

  4. Hi; Jason you have many friends out here also trying to make ends meet. I don’t qualify for the relief loans as I am a new artist and don’t have hardly enough sales to be a business yet. I work out of my home so I have very little expenses. I do want to get to the point of creating an income from my art. I really like the way you are trying to help artists get more sales and get into gallery’s. I am interested in your catalog but I’m not ready right now to talk about the details, but I would like to support you in this rough time. I wonder if maybe you have thought about gift cards where we could purchase a service to be used later when the economy turns around, such as ads in your catalog? PS I like your video tour of the gallery, it would be good if we could click on something we might be interested in knowing more about. Keep up your good work and be safe.
    Thanks Ken Wallace

  5. We’ve talked with our CPA firm extensively on this and they told us that many institutions are confused because they keep changing the qualifications every other day. For right now, many of us as independent contractors/sole proprietors, qualify for the EIDL as well as other small businesses (less than 500 employees) for up to $10,000. You have to provide 1099 income for January 2019 through Feb 2020, plus your outgoing expenses for the same period. Technically it’s a glorified grant that won’t have to be paid back unless they find out you haven’t been honest. The PPP is also available which will provide you with two and a half months of what your average income was over the last year. That also is a grant as long as you are paying yourself and/or any employees and covering expenses. It’s always good to talk to your CPA about it, but you can apply for these loans/grants at My husband and I are both independent/sole proprietor contractors in our work and we’ve already applied for both at our CPA’s direction. I wish everyone good luck through this. I know it is extremely difficult. Hopefully this won’t last very long. Be safe and stay healthy.

  6. In the past few days, I’ve listened to several online talks about the different loans, including a local Chamber of commerce one where they had a woman from the SBA there giving information. It sounded like today, April 10, sole proprietors could apply, so I called my local bank BankUnited to apply for the PPP. I’ve had a personal account with them for many years. They called me back 10 minutes later to say since I did not have a business account or loan with them, I was not qualified to apply there. She told me to just apply through the SBA website. I looked and it seems that website just refers you to find a lender.
    The separate account I use only for my art business is with a credit union, also a personal not business account. They aren’t doing any SBA loans. I called several other banks in my area and none of them are accepting SBA applications unless you have a business account and relationship with them. It won’t work to just open up a bank account.
    I’m frustrated and probably have given up on the PPP thing since it sounds like funds will be gone before I can get an application in somewhere. I did apply for the EIDL loan and checked the $10000 box. Then read yesterday and heard in one of the online talk that now it may be $1000 per employee in the business up to 10, so it is only a $1000 grant possible for sole proprietors.
    I’m wondering now if I should try to apply for unemployment, but not sure if I would qualify if I’m able to sell paintings off my website. I have 1 commission I’m working on. Also, I live in Florida which has a terrible unemployment system that denies 9 out of 10 applications. Plus no one has been able to apply online, the system is so archaic and not enough servers, so they are now putting out paper applications to pick up at the libraries, it is that bad.

  7. This is seriously dark. On many levels this current situation, medically, socially, economically will erase swathes of normalcy and any remembrance of it.. As a student of history and old enough to have lived through some of it, it will be the arts that carry us through. But keeop in mind, the artists are not immune but equally upended. Who knows what we swill have. One thing is clear to me, the thinking and doing will be more local for a lot longer than our politics allow meaning what we think are weeks are maybe really months, what look like months could possibly be years.
    This is not pessimism but honesty. Listen to the doctors- the ones on the front lines. What is art’s answer? What is our answer- show up with even more paint even if the result is an audience of one. Think for a moment of Vincent van Gogh or Joan Miro.

  8. I apply the very first day the unemployed assistance program opened, or I tried. I continued to try daily, both on the phone and through the website here in New Mexico. I Could NOT get thru. I sat down to my computer early yesterday to see the banner across the top of the web page…the program has been closed.
    So well, I wrote my Senator and House Representative a note. Thanking them for their hard efforts and to please remember me while wrangling with the Republicans on the new bill…and to please work VERY hard on letting us be able to vote in November.
    So it’s back to learning how to navigate and use the internet, not a strong skill set for me…best get much better!!! I’m so happy to see my veggie seeds have sprouted in my patio-pot garden!

  9. Things are much different in Canada. Self employed people as well as those laid off by Covid can apply for employment insurance that is federally funded for $2000/month for the next 3 months. There are also provincial one time grants & 3 month hydro credits. Small businesses can apply federally for 75% of their employees wages to be covered. There are also loans and grants for businesses as well. I have to say I am really happy with how our federal and provincial governments have handled the crisis. I’m basically being paid to spend time in my studio. I wish everyone the best while we ride out this storm.

  10. “The whole thing is a scam to bail out the banks”. I’m starting to believe it. Well Fargo “opened ” the app process on Friday and closed it on Friday. The same day. After a 2 hour hold, I got to talk to a rep. “oh, you have to has w.f. business acct. I have been doing business with this bank for 40 years. NOW, I have to have a business acct. I told him that the SB A doesn’t have that requirement. That Wells Fargo is just making up rules to limit the appps for bigger business. This was never intended for us. Just more Rephblician lies. The big corps will scam it all. I would like to hear from the first person who actually gets money in their acct. We’re is the 1200.00? Any one seen that yet?

  11. If you have continued difficulties, Please call your congressperson. Having worked in a government agency closely working with SBA, I am particularly aware that elected officials have been involved in allocating this funding and we must hold them accountable. . (The reason it was extremely difficult to even find an application is because Congress makes big announcements before the SBA has opportunity to create policy and procedures and make applications available.). If this program is not meeting your needs your congressperson needs to know this and be held accountable to help you. You can request them to look into your case if you have not received the funding you are anticipating. Additionally, if you have questions about the program you should be able to get clear explanations of them.

  12. The CHASE website would not let me fill out information for PPP, then instantly crashed when applying for. PPP on the morning of the 10th. Yesterday I was sent an e-mail stating my application is not complete, that I only have until tomorrow to finish it & since the money is already allocated it’s only a small possibility if there will be future funds. Chase’s sight also expressly asked – not to call.
    Because unemployment will last weeks longer than PPP, & the additional $600 weekly, I looked at the Chase website crashing as a possible blessing in disguise despite having to pay taxes on unemployment, but not on PPP. Then I was denied unemployment benefits- I believe because the forms don’t allow you to fill them out properly and.or because many of the forms fields for Illinois are not applicable to self-employed The # to call, remains unanswered and a second number your are told to call is no longer in service. Just hoping the stimulus check will come thru. Wish I lived in Canada. Good luck to everyone. I greatly hope that 27 million of the 30 million small businesses that are owned/run by individuals do not end up homeless. I’ve been self-employed (not as an artist- but trying to be) for 25 years and I’m not giving up on my business or art.

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