Congessional leaders announced on Sunday a new COVID-19 relief bill that will include funding for independent music venues that have been closed throughout the pandemic.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement saying the long-overdue $900 billion stimulus deal bill includes "$15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions."
"We're thrilled that Congress has heard the call of shuttered independent venues across the country and provided us a crucial lifeline by including the Save Our Stages Act in the COVID-19 Relief Bill," Dayna Frank, owner and chief executive of First Avenue Productions and board president of the National Independent Venue Association, said in a statement. "We're also incredibly grateful that this bill provides Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which will help the millions of people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own during this economic crisis. We urge swift passage of this legislation, which will assist those in the greatest need and ensure the music lives on for generations to come."
Small live music and entertainment venues have been hard-hit during the coronavirus pandemic, with 90 percent of venue owners, promoters, and bookers previously reporting they were at risk of closing without additional financial assistance and an estimated $9 billion in losses.
On Tuesday, a group of representatives from the live event industry testified at a Congressional hearing. Among those speaking was Michael Strickland, owner of the lighting company Bandit Lites in Knoxville, Tennessee, who told the members of the committee: "We're here before you with our hats in our hands. Thirty percent of the industry is gone now, and if nothing done by February, sixty percent will be gone." Adam Hartke, who owns two independent venues in Wichita, Kansas, added: "Please don't let the music die. Please save our stages."
In July, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Save Our Stages Act, which would provide Small Business Administration grants for independent live music venue operators affected by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. These grants would provide six months of financial support to keep venues afloat, pay employees, and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America.
"Minnesota's concert halls, theatres, and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art, and education," Klobuchar said. "This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate, and serve our communities for generations to come."
"Texas is home to a number of historic and world-class small entertainment venues, many of which remain shuttered after being the first businesses to close," Cornyn said. "The culture around Texas dance halls and live music has shaped generations, and this legislation would give them the resources to reopen their doors and continue educating and inspiring Texans beyond the coronavirus pandemic."