Photo/Illutration People representing film, theater and music industry groups, including actress Eri Watanabe, left, and film director Atsuhiko Suwa, right, hold a news conference on May 22 after they submitted a request to the government for greater supports for artists. (Ryo Jozuka)

The government will distribute up to 1.5 million yen ($13,950) to individual artists and entertainment organizers to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, sources said.

The measure announced May 26 is intended to introduce new financial support measures for people who work in the cultural, arts and sports fields so they can remain in business through tough times.

The government earmarked 56 billion yen for the program in the second supplementary budget.

A government request at the end of February for organizers to refrain from holding big events resulted in theater productions, concerts and other cultural activities to be canceled or postponed one after another nationwide.

Artists, event organizers and politicians from the ruling and opposing parties pushed vigorously for more public support for live performers.

The subsidy will go to individuals or small business operators to help with ongoing activities, including training and event preparations, and to support them in implementing measures to prevent a further spread of the new coronavirus, according to sources.

As for midsize operators and big businesses, the government will prepare more substantial support measures set aside for arts and culture organizations.

The government is planning to expand welfare projects included in the first supplementary budget aimed at groups struggling to increase profitability.

So far, the government has established a preferential tax system for those who do not get refunds for canceled event tickets, provided 2.1 billion yen to cultural facilities for countermeasures against the virus, and directed 1.3 billion yen toward helping cultural groups and artists who were deprived of holding events and are now trying to organize them, along with exhibitions.

While many of the measures aim at reviving such activities after the virus is contained, the government has not come up with comprehensive steps to compensate for financial damages caused by event cancellations and postponements--which some groups are still pushing for.

According to the Tokyo-based Arts and Culture Forum made up of 21 groups across the entertainment, music, film and other cultural fields, about 5,600 events were canceled over a three-week period after the government requested Feb. 26 that they shutter big events during the outbreak.

The cancellations are estimated to have caused financial losses of 52.2 billion yen.

Even though the state of emergency is now lifted, people are still taking precautions against COVID-19 infection and adjusting their lifestyles.

This poses a major challenge for performers and those hosting live events over restoring their business activities to pre-pandemic levels.

Three cultural industry groups, representing film, theater and music, submitted a joint request to the government on May 22 for more support for arts and culture.

They sought funding from the public and private sectors to compensate for sales losses from events and screenings. They also requested financial support over fixed expenses and for the government to distribute subsidies for employment adjustment as early as possible.