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The United Palace theater in Washington Heights, New York.
The United Palace theater in Washington Heights, New York.

Live Arts Venues in US to Receive $15 Billion Stimulus

With Congress’s passing yesterday of the $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package, the Save Our Stages (SOS) act passed as well, with the result that $15 billion of the stimulus money will be available to the many live arts venues in the United States that have been struggling since March, when Covid-19 brought touring to a halt and forced the nationwide closure of venues ranging from all-ages basement clubs to Broadway theaters.

Under the provisions of SOS, independent venues and promoters will be able to apply for grants from the Small Business Administration that will cover six months of payroll, rent, and operating expenses. The grants are equal to 45 percent of an applicant’s gross 2019 revenue and are capped at $10 million per entity. In order to qualify, applicants must have seen a drop-off of at least 25 percent in revenue; those who have lost 90 percent or more will be given priority and allowed to apply within the first two weeks of the bill being signed into law. Besides venues, promoters, and museums, talent agents, and managers may apply as well.

The Save Our Stages act was supported by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a coalition of more than three thousand venues representing every state in the US the country that formed last spring. SOS was sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in the Senate, and by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) in the House. New York’s Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, lobbied aggressively on the bill’s behalf, telling the New York Times that not only Broadway but small venues are the “lifeblood of New York, ” and citing such venues as a draw for young people across the country. “The nonprofit and arts world is very important to the economies of cities,” said Schumer. “People forget that.”

“This is the lifeline our industry so desperately needs to emerge from a devastating year,” said Dayna Frank, owner of Minneapolis’s First Avenue and the board president of NIVA in a statement. In the course of its campaign, NIVA reached out to live-arts fans across the nation, prompting 2.1 million emails to elected officials in support of the act.

Klobuchar credited the “grass-roots efforts of musicians and theaters and fans all across the country,” with getting the bill passed, noting that “the coalition stuck together. They didn’t infight.”