Blumenthal Urges Congress to Pass Legislation Saving America’s Independent Event Venues

September 1, 2020 by Sara Wilkerson

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and leaders in Connecticut’s entertainment industry called on Congress to pass the Save Our Stages Act, otherwise known as the SOS Act, which would provide Small Business Administration grants for independent live music and event operators impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants from the SBA must be used on expenses such as rent, payroll costs, utilities and personal protection equipment. 

The SOS Act was introduced to Congress last month by Senate co-sponsors John Cornyn, D-Texas and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. The $10 billion SOS grant program acts as a lifeline for independent live operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives across the country who are struggling to make ends meet amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the bill, independent venue operators can receive an initial Small Business Administration grant of up to $12 million that can be spent on costs incurred between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. 

Additionally, those eligible can receive a supplemental grant that is half of the initial received grant. Those receiving supplemental grants can use the grants on costs incurred until June 30, 2021. 

The RESTART Act, a second option of funding for independent operators, extends the Payroll Protection Program by providing loans instead of grants to recipients. 

“The Restart Act can make a huge difference for the arts in our state,” Blumenthal said of the legislation. “It can also save our souls, our artistic values. 

“I’m intent on raising awareness of this on both sides of the aisle. The need is really dire. I’m sure everyone has a memory of a theater like this from their childhood — I know I do.” 

The SOS Act and the RESTART Act have yet to be passed by the Senate or House of Representatives, however bipartisan support has already reached key figures in Congress and in the entertainment industry. 

On August 18, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced his support for the SOS Act. 

“Independent venues, like theaters and concert halls, are the beating heart of New York’s cultural life and a driving force in the economy. These local businesses were among the first to shut down at the start of the pandemic, are struggling to stay afloat, and will be among the last to reopen,” said Senator Schumer. 

“That’s why it’s so important to provide dedicated federal assistance to independent venues so when it is safe, we can gather again for music, comedy, theater and other live performances in venues that have been around for generations. I’m proud to co-sponsor the Save Our Stages Act, and I’ll fight to include federal funding for independent venues in any coronavirus relief legislation,” continued Schumer. 

“Building on the success of the PPP program, the RESTART Act will help the hardest hit small businesses and nonprofits keep their doors open and ensure more Americans can get back to work,” said Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., in a statement

Kelly continued saying, “Providing greater flexibility and longer-term loans will assist more job creators survive this pandemic and resume normal business operations. It’s a win-win for our economy, U.S. small businesses and American workers.” 

The National Independent Venue Association, comprised of over 2,500 live venue operators and artists in the entertainment industry, have been lobbying Congress for months to get legislation passed for operators to receive the financial relief they need. 

According to a recent survey from NIVA members, 90% of independent venues report they will close permanently in a few months without federal funding. 

“Current PPP [Payroll Protection Program] funding will not solve the crisis,” NIVA concluded from its survey. 

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