Navigating Financial Relief Available to Video Production Companies and their Employees Affected by COVID-19
Navigating Video Production Financial Relief
With initial summations pointing at potentially $2.7 trillion lost in global output as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, you’d be hard-pressed not to find an industry that’s really hurting right now. Spending on digital media, in general, is estimated to take a 33% hit over the next 3 months, and video production firms will no doubt be feeling that impact for some time and need significant financial relief.
That being said, we think it is more important than ever for communities to band together as allies in this time of shared suffering. For our colleagues in video production services and digital media creators here in Washington D.C., and beyond, we have taken the time to compile a comprehensive list of resources available (public and private) for those who need a little help maintaining cash flow and income for their companies as they fight COVID-19.
Government & tax relief programs
Primarily there are three specific forms of relief worth considering for a video production company owner/operator, as far as federally funded small business relief is concerned: available tax benefits, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs).
Your taxes are an easy place to start. The most important of the changes made that could benefit you immediately is the deferment of payroll taxes until the end of 2022 (however at least half must be paid by Dec. 31st, 2021). Business owners can also postpone payment of Railroad Retirement taxes, FICA taxes, and half of the SECA tax.
A somewhat trickier tax relief program is also available to you when making your next filing, and that is the Employee Retention Credit (EE). Crafted to support all businesses trying to maintain consistent staffing levels throughout this crisis’ economic onslaught, it provides a refundable tax credit for half of up to $10,000 in wages paid by eligible companies to their employees who have had their revenue impacted by the pandemic (in either lost income or suspension of business in the area).
If you find your production company is suffering especially severely without fresh projects coming down the pipeline for the foreseeable future, for the good of your livelihood and that of your crews’ it might be worth considering the aforementioned Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs).
As a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the PPP was established in an effort to protect the paychecks of America’s labor force, and you or your employees. It provides forgivable loans of up to $10,000,000 to cover payroll costs — all forms of wages, benefits, paid leave, and more up to $100,000 per employee — in addition to rent, utilities, mortgage, and interest on debt obligations.
Most video production companies and freelance video contractors won’t have a difficult time meeting eligibility requirements as the principal criteria are that companies employ less than 500 employees or meet applicable Small Business Association (SBA) employee-based size standards for their industry. These are partially forgivable, two-year loans with an interest rate of 1% and six months of payment deferment, but the only forgivable portion of the loan is funds spent during the first eight weeks after the loan’s origination and must be requested, it is not automatic.
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act previously added additional funding for its Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), also regulated by the SBA and provided by its approved lenders. These are low-interest (3.75% APR for SBM’s, 2.75% for nonprofits), long-term (up to 30 years) loans of up to $2,000,000 meant to cover the majority of operating expenses for those businesses impacted by COVID-19.
If planning on using any of these services please be aware of the way they conflict with each other (as is the case with the PPP loans and the Employee Retention credit; you cannot utilize both). Be sure to confer with your financial services or accounting department to make the decision that’s best for your company.
Noting that the services offered by the federal government are in some ways lacking or difficult to access right away, many state and local governments have also stepped up to the plate. For our Washington D.C. video production company colleagues the mayor’s office is funding its own micro-grant program and services, as is the Maryland Department of Commerce for our fellow Maryland video marketing firms across the Potomac. Be sure to keep checking these as often they will end their registration periods to review applications and then re-open again later.
Private & charitable funds
A number of private and charity organizations have stepped up to the plate to fill in the gaps for the government in this time of need, many of which are specifically tooled to assist suffering video production firms and their crew.
Two of the broadest funds for those in video, film, and TV are the Behind the Scenes Charity fund, established to provide several kinds of emergency cash grants to those who work in production behind the camera or simply behind the scenes, and the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief program, which can provide emergency grants of up to
$1,000 for those out of work in the entertainment industry.
Similarly, the Artist Relief fund has been set-up as a sort of a catch-all for the entire arts industry. It is looking to offer up to $5,000 cash grants to arts workers in trouble as a result of COVID-19. This one is a powerhouse, funded by a wide-array of sources, but it is also massively sought after given its wide reach.
There is also relief available that is focused on more specific areas of these industries, for those working in niche fields or genres. Field of Vision has launched a program geared toward offering financial assistance to documentary filmmakers and crew who are in need. The Photographer Fund has also been formed by Format to get help to out-of-work still-photographers.
If you’re still not finding something that fits your needs appropriately, organizations like Grantspace and Creative Capital have done a lot of the legwork for you and compiled thorough resource portals filled with information on localized and specialized programs that are offering funding and services for those in need in the creative trades. Mutual Aid Hubhas even put together a live map of services available across the country to find something immediately in your area.
Free & discounted services
Several companies are at least offering complimentary or significantly reduced price services to help those looking to cut costs or adapt to these trying economic times more easily and affordably.
Most urgent is likely those production firms who need all the financial assistance they can get, particularly in just unpacking the programs that are available to them and best for them. Software company Quickbase has put together a simple tool to access SBA-approved loan information for those who need a little help. Accounting firms like BKD are also offering COVID-19 tax & accounting resource centers to navigate these programs with professionals.
Even big tech has offered what they can to companies on their platforms. Facebook is offering cash grants and free ad space to small companies in the areas it operates, while Google is making similar ad credit grants available. Never a better time than now to consider growing your digital marketing efforts to reach your customers!
Ultimately, there is no one size fits all solution to the financial woes affecting us all right now. It behooves all our friends in video production and corporate videography to stay on the hunt for whatever they can find that can help to keep their studios afloat in this difficult time. Be sure to also join groups like the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in their calls on elected officials for additional support for our industry or their nationwide, COVID-19 PSA campaign as we attempt to make it through this crisis, together.