Pandemic Caused Deep Mental, Financial Hardships for Performers, Actors Fund Reports

Nearly 80% of those who sought assistance from the nonprofit in last year suffered mental health issues, while 40% faced food insecurity

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The Actors Fund released a study Thursday detailing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on entertainment professionals, revealing that 79% of 7,163 surveyed people whom the national human services organization helped through Feb. 28 are suffering mental health effects.

Additionally, 40% are more food insecure than before the pandemic, 28% are behind in their rent or mortgage payments, 20% have been forced to change housing and 56% have tapped into the Actors Fund Emergency Financial Assistance Program.

“The last year has exposed how vulnerable people in our community are,” Joe Benincasa, CEO of The Actors Fund, said in a statement accompanying the survey results. “We need to continue to provide critical support while the industry safely returns to work, and we intend to continue to explore ways to ensure more access to our services going forward.”

Per the Actors Fund: The majority of the respondents to the survey, who come from all parts of the United States, work in television and/or film (67% and 64% respectively), followed by theater (49%), music (24%), digital (19%), performance art (15%), radio/audio (15%), dance (13%), cultural center/performance venues (11%), clubs (6%) and theme parks (4%). Eight percent work in some other area of entertainment or performing arts.

See additional results from The Actors Fund survey below, in the report’s own words:

Impacts of Covid-19

The median household income among all respondents was $34,186. Given the low income and lack of savings, it is not surprising that the economic impact of Covid was greatest, with 76% of those surveyed saying they lost income, 62% reporting they lost part-time or gig employment, and 49% lost full-time employment in entertainment.  Of the respondents who lost full-time or part-time employment in the entertainment industry, 22% do not know when they will return to work, 29% expect to return in less than six months, 34% in six to 12 months, 11% in one year.

Income loss of course impacted other areas of respondents’ lives, including:

• 28% fell behind in rent or mortgage

• 21% are six or more months behind while 30% are one month behind, 24% two months behind, 16% three months behind, 6% are four months behind, and 3% are five months behind

• 69% of respondents rented their homes, 24% owned their homes and 7% had some other living arrangement

• 20% were forced to change housing

• 68% of those who lost housing moved to another state, 28% to another city within the state and 4% percent have moved outside of the United States

• 31% of these respondents do not know when their housing will return to pre-Covid conditions. 

• 13% of NYC respondent residents moved out of New York State, 7% of Los Angeles area respondent residents moved out of California.

• Of those who have not lost their housing, 5% said they were likely and 12% said they were somewhat likely to lose it when the eviction moratorium is lifted.

• 10% had to sell a large asset, such as a house or a car.

• 40% of the respondents reported reduced food security.

Impact on BIPOC Entertainment Professionals

BIPOC respondents — approximately 27% of those surveyed — were more likely to experience reduced food security, forced housing change, increased credit card or other debt, and/or to have changed utility usage as compared to white respondents.

Health Insurance & Mental Health

Access to health care remains a significant challenge for survey respondents. 10% of the respondents reported that they lost health insurance and have not had it replaced.  A stunning 79% reported that Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health, pointing to increased feelings of anxiety or depression, symptoms of stress, and a decreased ability to cope with economic uncertainty.

Among respondents who have lost health insurance and do not have health insurance now, 13% expect to have coverage in less than 6 months, 18% in 6 to 12 months, 17% in 1 year, and 11% in 2 years or more. 40% do not know when they will have health insurance again and 1% never expect to have health insurance again.

BIPOC respondents were slightly more likely to have lost health insurance and not have health insurance.

Respondents who have health insurance were asked the likelihood of losing their health insurance in the next 12 months. 16% of respondents said they were very likely to lose insurance, 20% somewhat likely, and 38% were not at all likely to lose health insurance in the next 12 months. 25% of respondents do not know if they will lose their health insurance in the next 12 months.


The most accessed service provided by The Actors Fund was emergency financial assistance (56%), followed by Career Center services (18%), health insurance counseling (14%), financial education (10%), counseling/mental health services (7%), NYC health care (5%), housing workshops (5%), senior services (3%), and housing (3%). 14% of respondents had not used any of the listed services.

In 2020, The Actors Fund served more than 40,000 individuals, a 71% increase from 2019; distributed more than $19 million in direct cash to some 15,000 individuals; and helped people from 126 different occupations in performing arts and entertainment with their services around career, financial wellness, mental health, health insurance, housing and more.

Fund COO Barbara Davis said, “Clearly, we were able to help lessen the impact of the pandemic but the pandemic has a long tail. Now, we need to continue to provide direct financial assistance, must help more people access health insurance and receive health care, and provide mental health and other support services as the entertainment industry gradually returns.”


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