Bipartisan COVID-19 Stimulus Bill Includes $15 Billion for Indie Venues and Theaters

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Photo Credit: bantersnaps

The newly finalized COVID-19 stimulus bill includes $15 billion for indie venues and theaters, in addition to a $600 second stimulus check and a renewed federal unemployment bonus.

Congressional lawmakers have reached an agreement on the nearly $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill, which arrives after nearly six months of fruitless negotiations and roughly nine months after the $2.2 trillion CARES Act was signed into law. The legislation – about $560 billion of which will be covered by unused CARES Act capital – includes “dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.”

Another $20 billion is earmarked for small businesses, in the form of “targeted EIDL Grants,” with $284 billion set aside for additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. (Local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters, and nonprofits will have “expanded PPP eligibility” under the legislation, which Congress is expected to vote on later today.)

Eligible unemployed Americans are set to begin receiving an extra $300 per week (added onto the UI in their respective states) once the COVID-19 stimulus bill becomes law. The second stimulus check, for its part, will be “worth up to $600 per adult and child” – though even with the logistical groundwork laid by the CARES Act’s $1,200 stimulus check, the distribution process could take multiple weeks, for some.

Lastly, the $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill encompasses an extended employee-retention tax credit, a $7 billion investment designed “to increase access to broadband,” a $13 billion increase in SNAP benefits, and $25 billion worth of rental assistance.

Also worth noting is that congressional leaders appear poised to negotiate a different stimulus bill in the near future. Speaker Pelosi indicated that “more help will be on the way,” while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter yesterday, upon announcing the economic-relief agreement: “We will pass another rescue package ASAP. More help is on the way.”

For indie venues, the eligibility requirements (as well as the application specifics and payout timetable) associated with the $15 billion tranche were unclear at the time of publishing. Nevertheless, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which has issued several calls for industry-specific aid on the year, addressed the government support in a statement.

“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 urge swift passage of this legislation, which will assist those in the greatest need and ensure the music lives on for generations to come,” said NIVA Board President Dayna Frank.

Last week, the largest independent concert promoter in Texas, Margin Walker Presents, was forced to shut down due to the economic effects of the pandemic. And in November, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino sharply questioned the viability of former William Morris Endeavor music-division head Marc Geiger’s SaveLive venue-buyout plan.