Expert author: Audronė Rimkutė
Last update: August 2022
Expert author: Audronė Rimkutė
Last update: August 2022
On the 13th of March 2020, the Government of Lithuania decided to declare quarantine on the entire territory of the Republic of Lithuania from March 16th onwards. The measures of quarantine included restrictions on cross-border movement, prohibition of public events and private gatherings, and the closure of shops, shopping and/or entertainment centres, catering facilities, restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, and cultural, leisure, entertainment and sports establishments.
On the 16th of March, the Government adopted the Economic and Financial Action Plan for COVID–19 that focuses on ensuring the health of the population, helping small and medium-sized businesses, and stimulating employment and the economy. It is planned that 10% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) will be allocated to the implementation of all measures of the plan, which will amount to EUR 5 billion. According to the Government’s plan, EUR 500 million will be allocated for preservation of jobs. The plan commits the state to contribute jointly to employers’ efforts to preserve jobs for up to three months by covering part of the downtime or downtime allowance for employees. The employers must guarantee a benefit for employees of at least the minimum monthly wage (MMW). The estimated share of state funds will account for 60 percent, but no more than one MMW. This provision is important for the entire non-governmental sector, including cultural organisations.
EUR 50 million is allocated for the self-employed who have paid social security contributions and who are unable to carry out their working activities due to the quarantine. The plan provides a flat-rate benefit of EUR 257 per month for these persons for up to three months. This provision is also relevant for self-employed persons in the cultural and creative industries. EUR 2 million is allocated for the Artists Social Security Programme to provide and pay creative downtime for artists who are unable to generate income from their working activities due to the quarantine. The Lithuanian Ministry of Culture is currently implementing this measure.
On the 8th of April, addressing the problems in the cultural sector caused by the COVID-19 virus outbreak, the Lithuanian Government approved the Action Plan for Support of Culture Sector that was prepared by the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry proposed to allocate an additional EUR 5 million to the integrated cultural sector promotion programme. The Lithuanian film sector will receive EUR 2 million to support cinemas, new productions, distribution, individual filmmakers, television and audiovisual content. The measure will be implemented by the Lithuanian Film Centre.
EUR 10 million was distributed through a special programme of the Lithuanian Council for Culture, which promoted the digitization of cultural products and services and adaptation of them to digital environment. The measure started in April, the funds were distributed to legal entities – cultural organisations, including NGOs and state funded cultural institutions. In total, the Lithuanian Council for Culture received 909 applications that were classified into 14 domains: architecture, circus, art, design, ethnic culture, photography, cultural heritage, literature, amateur arts, music, dance, interdisciplinary art, inter-domain art, and theatre. According to the experts’ recommendations and Council’s decision, funding was allocated for 512 projects. The largest group of funded projects (113) consisted of inter-domain art projects, belonging to museums, libraries, cultural and arts centres etc. The second largest group was music projects (78), the third cultural heritage (58), and the fourth literature (49). The remaining 214 projects belong to field of theatre (46), art (31), ethnic culture (25), amateur arts (23), interdisciplinary arts (20), dance (18), photography (16), design (14), architecture (12), circus (9). Regarding the digitisation activities carried out by the funded projects, the two largest groups consisted of electronic publishing (89 projects) and virtual expositions (88 projects). Other popular activities were development of data bases (41), mobile applications (22) and digital archives (20). In literature and music fields, publishing activities were the most popular. They consisted of the publishing of new audio and electronic books, CD and DVD, video recording and publishing of concerts, video clips etc. Cultural heritage, inter-domain art and visual arts on the other hand dominated in projects aimed at the creation of virtual expositions and mobile applications. Data bases were developed in almost all fields of culture except ethnic culture and circus, and archiving activities and development of digital archives were undertaken within the visual arts, literature, and theatre.
Also, the Lithuanian Council for Culture redistributed the Culture Support Fund and allocated EUR 600 000 for individual grants for artists and culture professionals, awarded through a competition for three months to facilitate creative work. More than 300 artists had received these grants. The Council also administers funds of compensatory remuneration for the reproduction of works for private use. By agreement with copyright and related rights associations, all these funds (over EUR 700 000) were redirected to compensate losses of self-employed persons, working in the field of culture.
The first quarantine was cancelled on 17th June, 2020, leaving some restrictions: all public services should be carried out in compliance with the management of people flows, keeping a safe distance and other necessary conditions for public health safety, hygiene, and personal protective equipment. The number of people who can participate in public events organised in open spaces was gradually increased every two weeks from 700 to 1000 participants.
On the 7th of November of 2020, the Lithuanian Government declared the second quarantine in Lithuania that should last until November 29. During this period, visits to cultural, leisure and entertainment institutions were prohibited, except for libraries. Libraries had been allowed to continue their activities, provided that the flow of people was regulated, a safe distance was observed, and other necessary safety conditions were ensured.
During the quarantine, work in cultural institutions, as well as in other state and municipal institutions, was organized and clients were served remotely or partially remotely, except in cases where the relevant functions must be performed at the workplace. It was recommended for the private sector to work in the same form of work organization as in the public sector.
The Government’s resolution also established that commercial and non-commercial cultural, entertainment events, celebrations, fairs, festivals, or other organized gatherings of people in open and closed public places were prohibited during quarantine. However, it was not prohibited to organize concerts or performances without spectators, recording them or conducting live broadcasts.
On the 10th of November 2020, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture published information on measures supporting cultural and creative sectors affected by COVID-19 pandemic.
|Beneficiaries and support measures|
|6.2||Film industry: support to the new TV and cinema content, films being under production, cinemas and distributors; additional support for projects promoting film culture (festivals, events); grants for film professionals|
|16.35||Culture and art organizations, art professionals: financing of postponing of events and other type activities; support for development of new products and/or services; individual grants for artists and culture professionals (granted for 3 months, EUR 600 /month), lump-sum payments for self-employed artists (the size of payment proportionate to the size of revenue loss due to the emergency and quarantine)|
|0.8||Art professionals: creative downtime payments (granted for 3 months, EUR 607 /month)|
|0.83||Music organizations: Support for acquisition of new music instruments|
|1.7||Libraries: acquisition of library collections – purchase of books and printed materials|
|4.45||Cultural organizations under the Ministry of Culture: support for continuing the functioning of the organizations|
|18.98||Cultural organizations under the Ministry of Culture: renewal of the infrastructure|
|26.3||Municipal cultural organizations: renewal of the infrastructure and acquisition of equipment|
The second quarantine was extended several times by the Lithuanian Government due to the worsening or non-improving pandemic situation and was canceled on 30th of June, 2021. During this period, the Lithuanian Council for Culture continued measures supporting individual artists and cultural workers. In the spring of 2021, artists submitted 3 288 applications to the individual grant competition implemented by the Lithuanian Council of Culture, which is almost 5 times more than the number of applications submitted for the spring competition in the previous year. Responding to this and considering the difficult situation of artists during the pandemic, the Lithuanian Council of Culture restructured its funding programs for culture and art projects. With the approval of the Ministry of Culture, an additional 975 thousand euros were allocated to finance individual grants. A total of 2.3 million were allocated to individual grants for cultural workers and artists.
Before the start of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the Lithuanian Council for Culture received an average of 635 applications from artists and awarded an average of 252 individual grants. In the spring of 2021, the amount of funds requested in the applications submitted for the individual grant competition was 10.6 million euros. To respond to the increased demand for grants, the Lithuanian Council of Culture reviewed the project funding programs and, considering the ongoing pandemic situation in Lithuania and the world, decided temporarily suspend part of the programs whose activities were most difficult to implement in pandemic conditions (promotion of international mobility, activities that are difficult to implement remotely etc.) and relocated their funds to individual grants.
The individual grant is awarded to the artists for 3, 4, 5 or 6 months (March-August), the amount of the monthly payment is 600 euros. The largest number of applications for the spring of 2021 competition was submitted by music creators and performers – 948, the amount they requested – 3 million euros. Libraries and museums submitted the least number of applications (11 and 22 applications respectively). Artists of circus submitted 25 applications, architecture – 38, dance – 84. Representatives of cultural heritage submitted 101 initiatives, and representatives of ethnic culture and folk art submitted 141 initiatives. Designers submitted 198 applications, photographers – 202, artist of theater – 323, literature – 324, interdisciplinary art – 367, fine art – 504 applications.
During the second lockdown, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture continued the programme of downtime payments. Creative downtime is the period when a working age person with the status of an artist due to objective reasons beyond his control, temporarily does not have the conditions for artistic activity and/or the dissemination of its results.The downtime can last for 3 months, during this period the artist receive payments of one minimum monthly wage. During the lockdown and state of national emergency, the previously valid provision that a new creative downtime payment can be granted only one year after the end of the previously allocated creative downtime payment has been abandoned. To receive this payment, the artist had to submit a free-form application, information about his or her income and other documents to the Ministry of Culture.
From March 15, 2021, museums, galleries, and other exhibition spaces are reopened to visitors. Museums and galleries had to ensure that there were at least 20 square meters per visitor. A distance of at least 2 meters was to be observed between people, except for members of the same family or household. In the visited facility, persons over 6 years of age must wear protective equipment that covers the nose and mouth.
On the 12th of April 2021, the reading rooms of libraries and state archives resumed their work and were re-opened to visitors. Librarians and archivers had to ensure that visitors are served in groups of no more than 2 people in reading rooms, and that a distance of at least 2 meters was to be observed between people in reading rooms, except for members of the same family or household. Persons older than 6 years must wear protective equipment covering the nose and mouth, other necessary conditions for the safe operation of reading rooms had been established.
On the 15th of April 2021, the Government approved a description of the procedure for allocating subsidies to companies most affected by the quarantine restrictions. The new subsidy procedure was much more favorable for small enterprises in cultural and creative sectors. According to it, the enterprises could choose the calculation of subsidies according to three alternatives. In the first case, the amount of support was linked to the GPM paid and/or credited by the company and the percentage of the company’s income drop. In this case, the amount of support would reach up to 350 thousand euros. The second method was intended for small and recently established companies – they could apply for support to cover fixed costs without an audit. The subsidy would cover up to 70 percent fixed costs, but not more than 40 thousand euros. This form of subsidy was particularly important for music clubs, small cinemas, and other small businesses of the cultural and creative sectors, who could not carry out their activities due to quarantine restrictions, but still had unavoidable expenses. Subsidy funds could be used to cover rent, operational, communal, security, etc. expenses. In the third case, companies would receive a subsidy covering up to 70 percent uncovered fixed costs and reaching up to 350 thousand euros. In this case, the subsidy recipient would be required to submit audited financial statements to the State Tax Inspectorate.
From April 19, 2021, theaters and other professional performing arts institutions, cinemas and film clubs resumed their activities. It was also allowed to organize events with spectators outdoors and indoors. According to the Government’s requirements, in cinemas, film clubs, professional performing arts institutions, the audience could fill no more than 30% of all seats, and the total number of spectators had not to exceed 150 persons. All participants older than 6 years should wear protective equipment covering the nose and mouth. Up to 150 people were allowed to participate in both indoor and outdoor events.
On the 24th of May 2021, the ‘Opportunity Pass’ entered into force in Lithuania. The Opportunity Pass is a QR code in the phone or printed form, received by people who have been vaccinated against coronavirus, recovered from COVID-19, or received a negative result of a COVID-19 test. Public catering establishments, restaurants, cafes, gambling houses and bars, except for nightclubs, were allowed to serve people with an Opportunity Pass inside. Also, after this Pass came into effect, it became possible to hold events with up to 500 spectators both in closed and open places. However, spectators should occupy no more than 75 percent of the seats during indoor events. The Opportunity Pass had also removed restrictions on the number of people attending personal celebrations. Since May 2021 till the suspension of the Pass on 5th February 2022, the ‘Opportunity Pass’ has been downloaded at least once by more than 2 million people. The total number of downloads (including re-downloads) was much higher – almost 13 million.
From the 1st of July 2021, the Government ended the lockdown in Lithuania, but decided to resume the state of national emergency for the threat of the spread of the coronavirus infection. Masks were still mandatory in public indoor spaces, including shopping malls, as well as public transport, common areas of workplaces or meetings. Masks were not required for sports or services where they were not possible while wearing a mask, nor were they required anywhere outdoors. The Government approved the proposal to ease the requirements for short-term (up to 2 hours) non-commercial events taking place in open public spaces. It had been decided to allow participation in events, including events on public holidays and commemorative days, without Opportunity Pass and registration.
On 11th of November 2021, to support self-employed creative workers of cultural and creative sectors affected by COVID-19 restrictions, the Government changed the procedure for calculating subsidies in order to make it possible for more creative workers to receive them. According to the Lithuanian related rights association AGATA, 87 percent of creative workers lost their main income due to the impact of the pandemic, income from collective licenses for concerts during the pandemic decreased by 71 percent, and only 56 percent developers who had applied for subsidies received them. The main reason for the rejection of subsidy requests was that income from copyright contracts and collective licenses was not treated as income from independent activities. The government’s decision on the procedure for awarding subsidies allowed to adapt it to the specifics of the creative activities. The income of self-employed creators is diversified, they receive various types of income from authors and related rights administration agencies, and for some of their activities, they must conclude copyright contracts. And while this side income was not formally classified as self-employment income, it also was the income of creators from independent (non-employment) creative activities that had been lost or significantly reduced due to the impact of the pandemic. Considering this, the government had determined that eligible applicants for subsidies are persons whose 2019 annual taxable income (excluding income received from individual activities, income received under copyright contracts, and royalties and other income received for the use of works and objects of related rights from collective copyright and related rights administration organizations) did not exceed 12 minimum monthly wages.
In November 2021, due to the rapid spread of the delta strain of the coronavirus in Lithuania, the Government decided to tighten the requirements for wearing protective face masks in public places. From November 15, in shops, service and other places where masks were mandatory, it became mandatory to wear medical face masks or respirators.
On February 2, 2022, the Government approved two concepts of measures prepared by the Ministry of Economy and Innovation, intended to help the tourism business affected by the pandemic. The Lithuanian tourism sector is one of the most affected by the pandemic. In 2021, the number of arriving tourists fell by 75 percent. Considering this, the Ministry of Economy and Innovation prepared an aid package for tourism sector. According to the first measure, accommodation service providers whose turnover in 2021, compared to 2019, decreased by at least 40% could apply for compensation of payments for utility services. The maximum possible compensation will be 50 thousand euros. The second measure provides subsidies for inbound tourism tour operators. Tour operators whose turnover in 2021, compared to 2019, decreased by 30% will also be able to count on state support. The maximum possible subsidy will reach 30 thousand euros. 4 million euros from state reserve is allocated for these measures.
On the 2nd of February 2022, the Government decided to suspend the Opportunity Pass from February 5. Standard basic infection control and personal protection measures continued to apply at events: respirators indoors are a must, while outdoors – respirators or medical masks are recommended if a safe distance is not observed; distributing spectator flows by 500s, preventing their intersection; food is used only in designated areas; in cinema theatres, snacks are allowed provided you sit a chair apart from another spectator, who is not in your group.
Since March 18, the management of the flow of people at events had become optional, and in cinemas the requirement to maintain a free seat distance between spectators if eating or drinking was waived. The staff are no longer required to control the flow of people, although flow control remains recommended. Respirators or medical face masks must be worn at all events, except when eating or drinking in the cinema.
From May 1, 2022, the Government revoked the state of national emergency. The Lithuanian Ministry of Health reported that on May 31, 81.36 percent of the Lithuanian population had been vaccinated against COVID-19 or had acquired immunity after contracting the disease. After revoking the national emergency, it is no longer mandatory to wear protective equipment covering the nose and mouth in indoor public places, or in public transport. It is recommended to wear face masks in public indoor places that are poorly ventilated, crowded, and it is impossible to maintain a safe distance from other people, also on public transport during the morning and evening peak hours.