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COVID-19 Relief Package Will Help Pro Audio Industry

Congress’ new $900 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package, expected to pass this week, includes the Save Our Stages Act, plus gig worker benefits, a revived Small Business PPP and more.

Congress / Capitol Hill / covid relief packageNew York, NY (December 21, 2020)—Late Sunday evening, Congressional leaders finally came to agreement on a long-awaited and long-negotiated $900-billion COVID-19 Relief Package; while the bill has yet to be voted on at press time, it is expected to be passed this week. The relief package would enact additional unemployment benefits, including extended assistance for the self-employed and gig workers, and would additionally reopen the Paycheck Protection Program, allotting relief funds that could aid live production pros, as well as nonprofits, radio and TV broadcasters, and more.

Crucially for the live event/touring production sector, the new bill includes the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act, under which $15 billion in PPP relief would be specifically earmarked for live venues, cultural institutions, independent cinemas and more. This marks a notable step up from the original amount that the SOS Act requested when first proposed in mid-2020.

The SOS Act, co-authored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), originally asked for $10 billion to provide six months of economic relief to independent venues. Issued in the form of grants, money would be disbursed to qualifying smaller venues, promoters, producers and talent representatives, and could be used, according to Klobuchar’s office, towards “rent, utilities, mortgage payments, PPE, contractor payments, maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, and capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines.”

While not aiding audio professionals directly, if passed, the Save Our Stages Act could help keep venues going until they can reopen in a meaningful fashion, ensuring sound professionals have an industry to work in on the other side of the pandemic. When first introduced, the bill quickly gained the co-sponsorship of Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and 28 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate.

Under the overall $900 billion COVID-19 Relief Package, the revived PPP program from which the SOS Act funds would be derived, would include more than $284 billion for first and second PPP loans to small businesses, both of which can be forgiven. The new program would also expand eligibility for the program in order to be more inclusive of nonprofits and smaller, independent media outlets such as local newspapers, and TV/radio broadcasters.

News of the SOS Act’s inclusion was met with excitement in the industry. Dayna Frank, board president of the 2,600-member National Independent Venue Association and owner/CEO of First Avenue Productions, said, “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. 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.”