New Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 58 per cent of businesses in arts and recreation services have reported employees do not meet the eligibility criteria for the Federal Government’s JobKeeper scheme.

The sector was one of the first to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with venues forced to close across the country in mid-March.

Since then, the multi-billion-dollar industry has seen a 27 per cent decrease in jobs, and many employees have found themselves unable to access financial assistance.

Music venue, La La La’s, is one of many local businesses to have struggled amid the pandemic.

The venue opened in November last year and failed to meet the eligibility for the JobKeeper scheme. However, owner Nathan Stratton has since been able to secure payments for two of his 12 staff.

“We found out the ATO had discretion on those terms, so my two full-timers are eligible, but it seems none of my casuals are,” he said.

Those ineligible for JobKeeper can apply for JobSeeker, but this has proven a challenge for many in the industry due to the nature of their work. 

Workers need to prove a loss of income caused by COVID-19 in order to gain the allowance, but this can be hard to demonstrate for freelance artists who work on short-term contracts.

While restrictions are set to ease in the coming months, Mr Stratton said it would be some time before art and recreation businesses would reopen.

“There’s this suggestion that things are going to start to be phased back in, but I think live music and the arts might be one of the last things that will be introduced,” he said.

“For the meantime, we’re trying our best to reduce our overheads and trying to work out where we can get additional funding from, applying for different grants and whatnot.

“We’ve got to remain positive, but there’s still so much uncertainty.”