The first sign that financial help might finally be on the way for independent music venues arrived on Wednesday (July 22), when Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) introduced a new act seeking financial relief for the venues during the coronavirus pandemic.

The touring industry has mostly been shut down since the pandemic started earlier in the year, with many states revealing that large gathering venues would likely be among those in the final stages of re-opening due to the potential for spread of coronavirus in large groups. Independent venues across the nation moved quickly to form the National Association of Independent Venues (NIVA), united in their goal of seeking funding to help stay afloat during the pandemic.

As part of their campaigning for financial assistance, NIVA began using the #SaveOurStages hashtag and it's a moniker that stuck as Senators John Corynyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) introduced the Save Our Stages Act to the Senate on Wednesday (July 22).

The act is seeking a $10 billion grant from the Small Business Administration in order to help pay employees and take care of the financial upkeep of the venues. Most venues have remained shuttered without new business since mid-March. If passed, the act would help fund venues over a six month period.

“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,” Cornyn said in a statement. “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,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate, and serve our communities for generations to come.”

The act has also been endorsed by NIVA as well as the National Independent Talent organization (NITO). “Our members told us months ago that if the shutdown lasted six months or longer and there wasn’t federal relief to hold them over, 90 percent of them would fold permanently,” said Dayna Frank, president of NIVA and CEO First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis, in a statement. “With no revenue and immense overhead, four months in, it’s already happening. The warning light is flashing red and our only hope is for legislation like Save Our Stages Act or RESTART Act to be passed before Congress goes on August recess. Otherwise, most businesses in this industry will collapse.”

The act would allow permit recipients to use the grants not only to aid employees, but to take care of 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. In addition, the act remains open to additional funding in the future should it be needed.

“On behalf of our more than 2,000 member venues, promoters and festivals, as well as their employees, artists and local communities who are facing an existential crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re incredibly grateful to Senators Cornyn and Klobuchar,” said co-chair of NIVA’s Advocacy Committee and president of Hartke Presents Adam Hartke in a statement.

“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," continued Hartke. "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.”

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