Where is the money? - Music group wants promised $50m stimulus
The Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliates Unions (JFMAU) is calling on the Government to fast-track the promised $50-million bailout package for the creative sector and also to apply some "balance and equity" in the models used to determine which sectors are locked down.
President of the union, Lowell Lawson, says that "entertainment has been left dead in the water".
"Since an article on June 10 carried by JIS and other news outlets, indicating that a package for members of the entertainment, culture and creative industries has now been increased to $50 million, we have not heard anything else about it. There are no clear instructions on when the funds will be made available or how to access it. We are not seeking handouts, but the reality is that people cannot pay their mortgage or their rent. People in the creative industry need assistance from last year. I know so many musicians and others who have left the island out of the sheer need to survive, and here we are doing things the same way and expecting different results," Lawson said.
His call follows an emergency industry meeting held on August 29 to address issues affecting the membership of the JFMAU.
"We had a vibrant discussion on the lockdown and the vaccines, and we showed how we as an organisation have been working behind the scenes to get things done. People need hope and assurance that something is being done," Lawson said. He is urging the Government to partner with the union "so that we can work out a balanced approach".
"What is happening now is not an equitable approach because some areas are given latitude while others are not. Tourism is open; aviation is open, the borders are open, supermarkets, gas stations, and even churches are open; everything except entertainment. And cruise ships are supposed to be coming back soon. Added to the issues of curfews and lockdowns is the increased bureaucracy. It now takes three weeks to a month to get the required permit to host an event, and by the time you think that there is a window of opportunity, there is a lockdown," a frustrated Lawson said.
People are affected
"How much tighter can the restrictions get?" he quizzed. "It's not that we want to keep party all night. Give us two hours in the day then. The reality is that so many people are affected when entertainment is locked down - the soup man, the peanut man, the pan chicken man, security for events, even the parish councils. People have their children to feed, send to school. We would like to know the premise on which the lockdown is being done. What is the data? Is it working?"
The Government had reopened the entertainment sector on July 1, with a raft of special measures in place to contain the spread of the virus under the Disaster Risk Management Act. Small events were given the go-ahead to resume with a maximum of 100 people. Organisers of large events were required to seek approval first through the entertainment ministry. However due to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases, the sector was closed again on August 11.
On Wednesday, Jamaica recorded 572 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 69,054.