Congress Approves COVID-19 Relief Bill, Includes $15 Bil. For ‘Live Venues, Independent Movie Theaters & Cultural Institutions’

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Capitol Hill negotiators finally agreed Sunday night to a $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package for businesses and individuals.

After months of highly politicized negotiations, tonight (Sunday, Dec. 20) the two branches of Congress finally agreed to terms on a $900 billion COVID-19 Relief Bill that includes the Save Our Stages Act, which will provide some “$15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions,” according to an “Emergency Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement,” email sent out by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

No exact details were given on how the Save Our Stages funds will be distributed, which was first proposed by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and subsequently introduced in July as a bi-partisan bill in the Senate by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) and in the House of Representatives by Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX).

“We’re 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,” stated Dayna Frank, owner/CEO of First Avenue Productions and Board President of NIVA, which has been at the forefront of political advocacy for venues during the pandemic and economic crisis. “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. We urge swift passage of this legislation, which will assist those in the greatest need and ensure the music lives on for generations to come.”

?The agreement, which still needs formal approval, is expected to pass both chambers of Congress tonight and tomorrow (Dec. 20-21) and sent to outgoing President Donald Trump who is expected to sign it.  The relief bill marks the first significant federal aid package during the pandemic and global crisis since April. While the bill is less than half the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March, the New York Times noted that it is still “one of the largest relief packages in modern history.”

The bill also includes employee retention tax credits, enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, direct payments of $600 per adult and child depending on income, funding for accelerated vaccine distribution, ending “surprise billing” for emergency and scheduled health care and “support for small business.”

According to Pelosi’s memo, that support for small business includes, “over $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters, key modifications to PPP to serve the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits and better assist independent restaurants, and includes $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. The agreement also includes $20 billion for targeted EIDL Grants which are critical to many smaller businesses on Main Street.”