HUNTER musicians and promoters greeted the Federal Government's $250 million rescue package for the arts with hope and cynicism.
On Thursday Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the JobMaker package, aimed at reviving the performing arts industry, which has been almost completely shutdown by COVID-19.
The package includes $75m in grants for new festivals, concerts, tours and events ranging between $75,000 to $2m, $90m in concessional loans for new productions, $50m for film and TV producers and $35m for government-funded groups.
Hunter Valley musician William Crighton welcomed the initiative, but is skeptical.
"Any money made available to the arts sector to try and get through this and reinvent is a positive," Crighton said.
"It feels a little disingenuous because at the same time they've cut an enormous amount, $84m, from the ABC.
"It's obvious the government is geared against the arts and free expression, but at the same time this money will provide much needed assistance to people and organisations that are really struggling."
During the lockdown Crighton produced a series of campfire live streams from his Bellbird home to support his family and also successfully applied for JobKeeper.
Lambton-based music restaurant Lizotte's re-opened two weeks ago with a reduced capacity of 50.
Owner Brian Lizotte said it was long overdue that the government recognised the importance of the arts to the Australian economy. It's estimated the arts employs 600,000 people and generates $112 billion.
"We've been complaining about it for months," Lizotte said. "What they've always not acknowledged is how integral the industry is for turnover and people's livelihoods and their mental health in general."
Hunter Valley festival promoter Matt Johnston, who operates the Gum Ball and Dashville Skyline, recently had an application rejected from the Australia Council for its 2020 Resilience Fund.
Johnston feared the emphasis on "new festivals" in the JobMaker package could mean Dashville will be unsuccessful again.
"I'd like to be hopeful, but at this stage of the game it's wait and see," Johnston said.
Johnston was forced to cancel the Gum Ball in April and due to expenses had to provide credits, rather than refunds, to ticket-holders. He hopes to host a smaller Sky Ball festival on October 2-4 but it's reliant on COVID-19 restrictions being eased.
"At this stage I'm feeling like I'm staring down the barrel of another couple of years trying to work out whether we're gonna stay afloat or not," he said.