Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced a new relief bill for independent music and entertainment venues struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Per a press release, the “Save Our Stages Act” would provide six months of financial support to help “keep venues afloat, pay employees and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America.” Independent music and entertainment venues have been among the hardest-hit businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Even as some portions of the economy begin to re-open, venues will likely remain closed for some time, as the coronavirus is believed to spread especially quickly in crowded indoor spaces.
“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 in a statement. “This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate and serve our communities for generations to come.”
Cornyn added: “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. 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.”
The “Save Our Stages” act would ensure that relief funds only go to small, independent venue operators, promoters and talent reps. The grant amounts would be the lesser of either 45% of a business’ operation costs from 2019 or $12 million. Those that receive grants would be able to use the money to cover costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as pay for rent, utilities, mortgages, personal protective equipment, maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, and expenses that would allow venues to meet local and federal social distancing guidelines.
The “Save Our Stages” act would also leave open the possibility of “supplemental grants” in the future if funding remains necessary. If necessary, recipients will be required to “return remaining funding after one year from the date of disbursement,” too.
In a statement, the National Independent Venue Association hailed the “Save Our Stage” act. “While existing government assistance programs have helped other industries, they weren’t tailored to meet the needs of small businesses like ours that have zero revenue, enormous overhead and no visibility into when we can fully re-open,” said Adam Hartke, the co-chair of the organization’s advocacy committee. “The Save Our Stages Act will provide the assistance we need to get through the shutdown until we can reopen safely and once again become the economic generators for our communities that we’ve always been.”
The “Save Our Stages” act arrives on the heels of another relief bill, the RESTART Act, which was introduced in both the Senate and the House. It isn’t specifically tailored to music venues, but broadly focuses on businesses with high overhead and no revenue during the pandemic, a category that definitely includes venues. Earlier this month, the NIVA issued a letter signed by the three major labels, as well as Spotify, Amazon Music and YouTube, urging legislators to support the RESTART Act.