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It appears that the lobbying by representatives for independent venues has at least begun to pay off on Capitol Hill: Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced a new relief bill for indie venues impacted by the coronarvirus pandemic.

The “Save Our Stages Act” would provide six months of financial support to help “keep venues afloat, pay employees and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America,” according to the announcement. Independent venues have been devastated by the pandemic and are likely to be among the last businesses to reopen, since they rely on crowds of closely packed humans for their livelihood.

Multiple venues, agents, bookers and managers have been active in lobbying for federal relief.

“Texas is home to a number of historic and world-class small entertainment venues, many of which remain shuttered after being the first businesses to close,” said Sen. Cornyn. “The culture around Texas dance halls and live music has shaped generations, and this legislation would give them the resources to reopen their doors and continue educating and inspiring Texans beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Minnesota’s concert halls, theatres, and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art, and education,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate, and serve our communities for generations to come.”

As has been widely reported, the announcement notes that some “90% of venue owners, promoters, and bookers reporting they are at risk of closing without additional financial assistance and an estimated $9 billion in losses should ticket sales not resume until 2021.” The act would:

  • Narrowly define independent live venue operators, promoters, and talent representatives to prevent large, international corporations from receiving federal grant funding
  • Direct the SBA to make grants to eligible venues equal to the lesser of either 45 percent of operation costs from calendar year 2019 or $12 million
  • Allow the Small Business Administrator to issue supplemental grants in the future if funding remains available and applicants can demonstrate need
  • Permit recipients to use grants for costs incurred during the COVID pandemic
  • Require recipients to return remaining funding after one year from the date of disbursement
  • Permit recipients to use grants for rent, utilities, mortgage obligations, PPE procurement, payments to contractors, regular maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, and capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines
  • Authorize the appropriation of $10 billion for the grant program

National Independent Venue Association’s Adam Hartke praised the act. “While existing government assistance programs have helped other industries, they weren’t tailored to meet the needs of small businesses like ours that have zero revenue, enormous overhead and no visibility into when we can fully re-open,” he said. “The Save Our Stages Act will provide the assistance we need to get through the shutdown until we can reopen safely and once again become the economic generators for our communities that we’ve always been.”