For the second time in just over six months, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer stood at a nightclub in his home borough of Brooklyn and stumped for independent music venues. Where last August he was promoting the “Save Our Stages” bill outside Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg, on Monday he was at Elsewhere in Bushwick, where he detailed the benefits that are now available to New York’s live venues and artists through the American Rescue Plan, including critical relief to struggling independent live venues, movie theaters, and cultural institutions, increased COBRA health insurance benefits, and additional federal relief for struggling New Yorkers, including gig workers and others in non-traditional employment.
While the basics of the plan were passed into law with “Save Our Stages” in December, several details are new. Schumer explained how each of these pieces of the legislation will help artists and live venues, like Elsewhere, stay afloat throughout the pandemic.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, independent venues, like theaters and concert halls, are the beating heart of New York’s cultural life and a driving force in the economy,” Schumer said. “These local businesses were among the first to shut down at the start of the pandemic, have been struggling to stay afloat, and will be among the last to reopen. The COVID package that I negotiated, prioritizes the venues and everyone who supports them as the critical cultural hubs that they are.”
He added, “The dedicated federal assistance to independent venues ensures that when it is safe to do so, we can gather again for comedy, music, theater, and movies and to once again enjoy the cultural institutions that have been around for generations. The final COVID relief package will help these places keep the lights and the laughs on, and keep the curtain from closing on New York City.”
Specifically, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) ARP increases the value of the federal COBRA health insurance program from 85% to 100%, which will help workers who lost their job through no fault of their own retain their health insurance. Additionally, the legislation provides multiple sources of critical relief to struggling independent live venues, movie theaters and cultural institutions by allowing eligible entities under the Save Our Stages program to get a PPP loan and a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. The bill also provides billions in additional federal relief for struggling New Yorkers by extending the historic unemployment insurance reforms established in the CARES Act, through September 6, 2021. It continues the critical lifeline of the enhanced unemployment assistance, providing an additional $300 per week on top of all state and federal unemployment benefits. The bill extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers and others in non-traditional employment, as well as the additional weeks of federal unemployment insurance for workers who exhaust their regular state benefits.