Over nine months since the last regular concert at First Avenue (Chelsea Cutler on March 12), Congress is set to pass a long-awaited relief bill that includes $15 billion in support for live entertainment venues. The Save Our Stages Act was championed by the newly-formed National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), led by First Avenue owner Dayna Frank, and co-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
“We’re thrilled that Congress has heard the call of shuttered independent venues across the country,” said Frank in a statement issued by NIVA, “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.”
As introduced by Klobuchar and co-sponsor John Cornyn (R-TX), the Save Our Stages Act empowers the Small Business Administration to administer up to two grants each, totaling up to $18 million, for “eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters, or talent representatives to address the economic effects of the COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic on certain live venues…Such grants shall be used for specified expenses such as payroll costs, rent, utilities, and personal protective equipment.”
“We did it!” tweeted Klobuchar. “Thanks to musicians, fans & friends for the grassroots work to convince people in D.C. that music & theaters & venues are key to our American economy & culture.” Members of Congress are finalizing the bill’s language, aiming to pass the measure by midnight tonight, after which it will go to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The news was greeted with understandable enthusiasm by venues, theater professionals, and, of course, artists. “I am extremely pleased that the #SaveOurStages act will be included in the stimulus bill,” tweeted soul star Bettye LaVette. “I can’t wait to see you all again!”