usatoday– After nine months of coronavirus-induced shutdowns that have impacted nearly every trade, many in the entertainment industry can hope for better days thanks to the Save Our Stages Act, which lawmakers announced Sunday would be included within the COVID-19 relief package.
Fifteen billion dollars would go toward grant programs for live venues, independent movie theaters and other cultural institutions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said Sunday in a statement.
Congressional leaders said Sunday they had reached a deal to pass a nearly $900 billion package that would include individual checks, small business loans and unemployment benefits for those struggling financially due to the pandemic. The relief bill must still be passed by the House and Senate and then signed by President Donald Trump before it can go into effect.
“We secured the #SaveOurStages Act for indie music venues, Broadway, comedy clubs, indie movie theaters, and more,” tweeted Schumer. “These are people’s jobs and livelihoods, and they need this help now. I won’t stop fighting for them.”
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Introduced in July by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Rep. Roger Williams R-Texas, the act aimed to secure grants for small venue employees out of their jobs while COVID-19 prevented shows from going on.
The larger bill also includes a program for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which National Independent Venue Association president Dayna Frank said will “help the millions of people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own during this economic crisis.”
NIVA, which was born out of necessity for venue workers struggling amid the pandemic, represents more than 3,000 independent music venues, comedy clubs, performing arts centers, concert promoters and festivals from every state in the U.S.
“We’re thrilled that Congress has heard the call of shuttered independent venues across the country and provided us a crucial lifeline,” Frank added.
Billie Eilish, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, Billy Joel, Lady Gaga and Gary Clark Jr. were among the dozens of artists who signed a joint letter in June to Congress on behalf of NIVA to ask for financial relief.
“Independent venues give artists their start, often as the first stage most of us have played on,” the letter read. “We urge you to remember we are the nation that gave the world jazz, country, rock & roll, bluegrass, hip hop, metal, blues, and R&B. Entertainment is America’s largest economic export, with songs written and produced by American artists sung in every place on the globe.”