For one, you could sign up for food stamps and unemployment insurance. SNAP – a.k.a., the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that issues food stamps – provides assistance to over 3,000,000 struggling New Yorkers per month, and can be a great resource for those forced to make the hard choice between buying art supplies and buying dinner. Even better, SNAP offers a web-based pre-screening tool for you to determine your eligibility before registering for benefits. The temporary income granted by unemployment benefits, either through a standard application or through the Self-Employment Assistance Program, can also be critical when money is tight. You can even apply for unemployment insurance online!
Below, we've listed nine more resources available for artists and writers faced with financial emergencies that threaten their careers. Some of these organizations also offer memberships with benefits such as affordable group health care, but we'll take a more in-depth look at that in a later entry.
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Gives grants to freelance writers with no other sources of income who lose the ability to work due to illness, disaster or family emergency. Applicants must be able to prove a sustained freelance writing career before emergency.
The Authors League Fund
Assists published writers who are facing unexpected emergencies. Some examples are medical emergencies, loss of income, imminent eviction,and inability to pay regular household expenses.
Pen Writers Fund
Gives grants of up to $2,000 to authors in emergency financial crises. The fund requires that the author be published in print, but also accepts grant requests from playwrights, fiction writers and poets in addition to nonfiction writers.
Foundation for Contemporary Arts
Awards grants to “emerging” artists who incur unexpected or unbudgeted expenses in trying to complete a project with a set performance or exhibition date. They also have a special fund for US-based artist who unexpectedly have to travel to Asia or Europe for work purposes.
Craft Emergency Relief Fund
Provides relief to craft artists who face career-threatening emergencies. They ask for at least three prior years of craft art being the applicant's primary source of income, but will also accept emerging or non-commercially viable artists if the right forms are filled.
The Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation
Gives large grants (typically $4,000) to painters, sculptors or printmakers lacking the finances to cover a catastrophic incident, such as a fire, flood, or emergency medical issue. Due to the size of the grants, they require that applicants exhibit a significant body of work over ten years.
Artists' Fellowship, Inc.
Provides relief for fine artists in financial crisis. Artists' Fellowship typically awards aid to around 70 professional fine artists per year, though unlike many emergency grants, which specify the one-time nature of the grant, they allow for continuing aid if circumstances do not improve.
The Max's Kansas City Project
Awards grants of up to $1,000 to artists residing in New York State struggling with medical, legal or housing issues. Founded by the widow of Mickey Ruskin, founder of the former New York nightclub and current culture curators, Max's Kansas City.
The Mayer Foundation
Offers grants (generally with the $2,500 – $5,000 range) to “needy individuals who are distressed or suffering as a result of poverty, low income or lack of financial resources.” One of the few foundations listed not exclusively focused on artists or writers, though they receive the majority of grants.
For more sources for emergency relief, consult The Authors League Fund's 2012 Resource List.