Included in the massive COVID-19 relief bill Congress passed on Monday is funding to help the country's entertainment venues, thanks to a grassroots effort led by First Avenue in Minneapolis.
The nearly $900 billion relief bill, which just has to be signed by President Donald Trump, includes about $15 billion to help independently owned music venues, performance spaces, and movie theaters across the nation.
These venues were among the first to close back in March and have largely remained closed since, with 90% of venue operators, promoters and bookers saying they could be forced to close unless they got some help from the federal government.
Over the summer, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and U.S. Sen. John Coryn, R-Texas, introduced the Save Our Stages Act, which was ultimately included in the relief bill.
“Independent venues were some of the first establishments to close down and will likely be some of the last to open. I refuse to sit by and let the music die, which is why I was proud to introduce the bipartisan Save our Stages Act,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “This funding will get small entertainment venues the help they need to make ends meet and serve our communities for generations to come.”
In a news release, First Avenue cheered the inclusion in the relief bill – which also features individual checks, small business loans and extension of unemployment benefits – following a months-long #SaveOurStages lobbying effort, saying it will help venues hold on until it's safe for them to fully reopen.
The bill provides a grant to businesses that's equal to 45% of gross revenue from 2019, with a cap of $10 million, the release said. This will help businesses with their rent/mortgage, payroll, utilities, personal protective equipment, and other business expenses.
“This is the lifeline our industry so desperately needs to emerge from a devastating year,” Dayna Frank, owner and CEO of First Avenue Productions and board president of National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) said in a statement. “Without independent venues and promoters across the country working to engage their communities, staff, and artists, our voices would not have been heard – we are thankful for those tireless efforts.
"Careers came to a standstill overnight, and people continue to face personal hardships, which is why legislation like this and extending Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is essential," Frank added. "Our immense gratitude goes, in particular, to Sen. Klobuchar, Sen. Cornyn, and Sen. Schumer, for securing the future of independent venues and promoters for generations to come.”
The grassroots #SaveOurStages effort resulted in people sending 2.1 million emails to their elected officials and saw 1,200 artists sign onto letters to Congress, as well as share the movement via social media.