(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) – Pelosi and Schumer
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speak to the media, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
The Save Live Events Now coalition – which represents Live Nation, AEG Presents, WME, CAA, UTA, Paradigm and Feld Entertainment as well as SAG-AFTRA, Universal Music Group, The Grammys and Pollstar parent company Oak View Group – today sent a letter to leaders of the U.S. Congress, detailing the struggles of the live entertainment industry and asking the officials to prioritize live aid for live events and live workers in the coming year.
“Since March, 95% of all live events were cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19, and there is still a long road ahead before operations resume. Knowing that the live events industry was the first to stop operations due to the pandemic and will likely be one of the last to restart, the #SaveLiveEventsNow Coalition asks that you prioritize aid for live events and live event workers in the 117th Congress,” the coalition wrote in a latter address to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
“For nearly 12 months, live event workers across the country have gone without a consistent paycheck, some have lost health insurance, and, in March 2021, most will lose unemployment insurance without congressional intervention.”
The letter goes on to acknowledge that efforts like the Paycheck Protection Program and the Shuttered Venue Operators grants have helped, but states that these measures do not go far enough to help the live industry’s dramatically suffering workforce. Of note, the letter makes special note of the fact that though the SVO grants brought by the Save Our Stages Act helps some independent venues, many venue workers are left out of that relief, meaning workers are being punished “based on where they work.”
The letter references Pollstar’s interview with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in which the Senator says “it is very obvious that there will be a second package next year,” and calls on Congress to adopt a number of elements into a future aid package, including: extending unemployment insurance and increasing the amount; extending the $100 Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemploymenet Assistance weekly benefit; passing a 100% COBRA subsidy; expanding employee retention tax credits for dramatically affected employers; an infrastructure package with tax credits for construction and capital improvements to live venues; passing the RESTART Act; and passing the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act.
This letter from SLEN follows a separate letter to President Joe Biden sent yesterday by a broad coalition of live event leaders, including Bandit Lites and SLEN members like Live Nation and OVG. That letter offered the services of the live event industry to assist with the country’s national vaccination efforts.
The full text of letter from SLEN is available below.
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader McCarthy:
The live events industry is an economic and cultural anchor for communities all across the country. But March 2021 will mark a full year since the pandemic put a screeching halt to live events and, therefore, the livelihoods of so many people that make up the vast and diverse live events ecosystem. Since March, 95% of all live events were cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19, and there is still a long road ahead before operations resume. Knowing that the live events industry was the first to stop operations due to the pandemic and will likely be one of the last to restart, the #SaveLiveEventsNow Coalition asks that you prioritize aid for live events and live event workers in the 117th Congress.
For nearly 12 months, live event workers across the country have gone without a consistent paycheck, some have lost health insurance, and, in March 2021, most will lose unemployment insurance without congressional intervention. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has helped many businesses in the industry retain employees. But several live events companies have not opted into the program because they are not able to responsibly and sustainably bring staff back on until they have certainty on when live events can restart, nor are they able to incur a low-interest federal loan to the government if they cannot use 60% of the loan for payroll. For companies that have been forced to furlough or lay off their employees, employee retention tax credits and unemployment insurance benefits have been helpful, but the $300 per week extension for jobless workers and $100 extension per week for mixed income earners will run out in midMarch. Enhanced relief and additional extensions will be urgently needed this year, as most live events workers will continue to be out of work past March 14, 2021 when these provisions are set to expire.
While the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was a welcome lifeline for many entertainment workers who remain out of work through no fault of their own, the relief offered by the bill falls far short of what is needed to meet the full magnitude of this pandemic and will not be sufficient to bridge the gap between now and the full return of live events.
For example, a majority of venue workers (and venues) are excluded from Save Our Stages. Leaving out this key segment of venues has effectively left out a large segment of event workers. Many live event workers are either directly employed or affiliated with amphitheaters, fairgrounds, universities, stadiums, arenas, performing arts theaters and other venues that are not independently owned and/or operated. Many of these live event venues have adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic, repurposing themselves as polling stations during the 2020 elections and as centers where local populations can get vaccines to combat the virus’ spread. But congressional packages to date have not provided financial relief for these venues, which are major employers at the local level. This has essentially punished workers based on where they work. A job is a job and right now many across the live events industry are struggling to stay afloat as the stages stay empty.
Since live events were put on hold, 77 percent of all workers in the live events industry have lost 100 percent of their income and today more than 62 percent of American artists across all disciplines are unemployed. By July 2020, staff and crew had already been reduced nearly 80 percent. The creative and talented workers across the live events industry need help and they need it now. And, while the economic relief bill is a start, the fight is far from over, especially for those individual workers who are likely to be out of work well into 2021 until shows return.
As Senator Amy Klobuchar said in a recent Pollstar article– Not Saved by Save Our Stages: Majority of Live Business Will Not Benefit from New Relief, “It is very obvious that there will be a second package next year.” As that package is developed and the 117th Congress begins its work we ask that you prioritize:
1. Extending unemployment insurance beyond mid-March and increasing the amount from the current $300 a week to at least $600 per week;
2. Extending and increasing the $100 Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance weekly benefit beyond mid-March to remedy lost benefits in 2020;
3. Passing a 100% COBRA premium subsidy so employers can continue to keep employees on their job-based health care plans;
4. Expanding employee retention tax credits for the most severely impacted employers with more than 85% revenue loss;
5. Developing a bold infrastructure package that establishes tax credits for new construction and capital improvements to live event venues;
6. Passing the Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards A Recovery in Twenty-Twenty Act (RESTART Act); and
7. Passing the bipartisan Performing Artist Tax Parity Act.
As a diverse coalition comprised of members across all live events with a growing list of more than 40 partners, the #SaveLiveEventsNow coalition strongly urges you to consider these measures that would provide direct relief for all of industry and the local communities that depend upon live events.
Prior to COVID-19, the live events industry was the second largest industry in the U.S. economy and the fastest growing, with projected yearly increases above 5 percent GDP.1 Live events have fueled more than industry growth. Local communities and workers, including restaurants, bars, and other services, rely on these events for their own businesses. The ripple effect of this loss of industry extends throughout local communities and neighborhoods, gravely affecting your own districts and states.
As the one-year anniversary of the pandemic approaches, we strongly urge you to enact measures that protect the livelihoods of all live event workers and the live events community in the year ahead.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the issue further, please do not hesitate to reach out to [email protected].
Sincerely, The #SaveLiveEventsNow Coalition