COVID-19 Relief Bill Includes $15 Billion in Grants for Venues
Right under the wire, Congress has passed a bill authorizing $900 billion in aid to individuals and businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to run rampant in America.
Much has been made of the measure’s direct payments to individuals — $600 for most adults and children — and extension of supplemental unemployment benefits and eviction freezes, but also of interest to music fans and artists is news of much-needed relief on the way for venues.
The bill, which today heads to the president to be signed into law, contains $15 billion in Small Business Administration grants for independent entertainment businesses including music venues, theaters, and arts organizations. Museums and talent agents and managers are also eligible.
(UPDATE DEC. 28: President Trump delayed signing and threatened not to do it for nearly a week until finally doing so Sunday night, releasing the funds.)
Since spring, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has worked to raise awareness of the plight of small venues during the pandemic and to make sure lawmakers understand their role in local economies and in the nation’s collective arts culture. Formed this year, NIVA now has more than 3,000 member venues and promoters, representing all 50 states. Its largest rallying point has been around the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act, a bipartisan measure introduced in July intended to offer aid specifically to venues and other small businesses that support live music. The main elements of the SOS Act are included in the new pandemic relief measure.
“We are 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, president of NIVA and owner of Minneapolis music venue First Avenue, said Sunday 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.”
Venues reacted to the news with excitement this week, but sounded a note of caution about what’s ahead, as coronavirus cases continue to soar in the US and live music and other public gatherings still seem a long way off as vaccines and relief take time to find a foothold.