The Secretary General at the Department of Arts and Heritage has said Covid-19 is having a devastating impact on the arts and culture sector.

Katherine Licken told the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response that the Arts Council quickly assured funded organisations that funding remained available in 2020 and that it could be drawn down sooner.

She said this was intended to help tackle cash flow challenges posed by the cancellation of events.

Ms Licken said an additional €25 million in funding was announced in June to support the Arts and Culture sector this year.

She said €20m will be allocated to the Arts Council bringing its allocation this year to €100m.

She also said the department is organising to meet representatives from the public and private sector to discuss how to protect and sustain the arts and culture sector through the Covid-19 recovery and beyond.

Fine Gael's Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked how the Arts Council would get money to artists that really need it.

Responding, Ms Licken said the Arts Council set up an expert advisory group to advise what the best approach would be.

She also said the budget for Culture Ireland was €4.1m and she said this was being repurposed to address Covid-19 crisis.

She said that process would continue, adding that the funding remains in the culture area.

Conor Falvey, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said the expert advisory committee is looking at show casing Irish artists overseas with more digital presentations.

He said the Arts Council is working to put procedures in place to get the application process out there to get the additional funding to the sector. He said the individual schemes would be announced very shortly.

Ms MacNeill also asked how the budget for Galway2020 European Capital of Culture would be repurposed.

Ms Licken said the budget for Galway2020 was €15m and that funding remains available.

She said they had submitted revised proposals in light of the pandemic about how they would roll out the programme in a new format and the department is reviewing it now.

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She told politicians that they asked the European Commission to consider extending the programme out to 2021.

Green TD Stephen Matthews said it would be a big challenge to create confidence so people spend on recreation and the arts and entertainment.

He said there was conflicting views about whether it was safe to travel abroad and if we should open up to visitors to come to Ireland.

Mr Matthews asked if government is doing enough with the safety message and asking people to stay at home and look after the tourism sector.

In response, Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly said there is a significant concern around people going out to restaurants and going on holiday in Ireland.

He said Fáilte Ireland had developed the Covid Ireland Safety Charter and over 700 businesses had signed up for it.

He said the campaign would be launched to the public this weekend.