Hideout Chicago (Credit score: Sarah Elizabeth Larson/Hideout Chicago)
The one actual shiny spot for dwell music in 2020 was that the Nationwide Unbiased Venue Affiliation tirelessly fought for a dying trade compelled to shutter for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After infinite congressional delays, partisan gridlock, and torpedoed negotiations thanks partially to President Trump’s grandstanding, the Senate lastly struck a deal and handed one other stimulus bundle on December 21. Included within the $900 billion Coronavirus Response and Aid Act Supplemental Appropriations Act, together with direct checks, additional unemployment help, and focused support to small companies was Part 324: Grants For Shuttered Venue Operators, higher often called the Save Our Levels Act. It is the one piece of laws NIVA lobbied for probably the most final yr, a legislative victory that is a testomony to the brand new organizations hard-fought organizing and lobbying efforts.
With 92 senators voting for the omnibus laws, the oft-cited survey that 90 p.c of impartial venues can be compelled to shutter with out federal help is not a doomsday inevitability however a disaster averted. “We’re not out of the woods but, however it’s so significantly better than how we have been feeling in 2020,” stated Audrey Repair Schaefer, spokesperson for NIVA. Whereas initially supposed as a $10 billion invoice focused at music venues with underneath 500 staff, congress secured $15 billion in funding so it might cowl extra varieties of leisure companies which were hit hardest from the pandemic. “They put related companies like impartial film theaters and impartial stage theaters underneath the identical act and made the pool of cash allotted accessible to them too,” stated Repair Schaefer.
Whereas its scope is expanded, the Save Our Levels Act nonetheless works the best way it was initially supposed. As VICE explained of NIVA’s efforts in July, the invoice is a “grant program for dwell venue operators, promoters, producers, and expertise representatives” the place certified recipients can use the cash for “hire, utilities, mortgage obligations, taxes, upkeep, paying contractors, and any COVID-related expense, whether or not it is procuring PPE or expenditures to satisfy native and state and state tips.” In observe, the funds are scheduled and tiered in order that the venues most affected by the pandemic can get the cash first. “Congress arrange a schedule by which entities which have skilled 90 p.c or extra income loss are in a position to apply to the Small Enterprise Administration for these grants within the first two weeks of this system launching,” stated Repair Schaefer. Following the primary wave, venues with 70 p.c or extra income loss can apply within the second set of two weeks, whereas the ultimate spherical applies to entities with at the least 25 p.c income loss.
Moreover, Congress has put aside $2 billion of the allotted funds within the Save Our Levels act for the smallest venues which have underneath 50 staff. “It wasn’t nearly getting funding,” stated Repair Schaefer. “It was about ensuring it was performed pretty and that the cash went to the fitting fingers.” This is a vital level because the Save Our Levels Act cuts out publicly traded corporations like LiveNation, multinational firms like AEG, and firms which have a presence in 10 or extra states. The rationale for his or her exclusion is sweet politics and good coverage. It will be a very unhealthy look to provide funding to firms that do not want it a carry, particularly as Billboard explains, “Publicly traded corporations like Dwell Nation have entry to capital markets, whereas AEG officers have already introduced that the corporate will borrow cash from its billionaire proprietor Phil Anschutz to cowl losses.”
Although the invoice is handed and assistance is on the best way, no venue has seen any cash from this stimulus bundle but and there isn’t any set date on once they can count on reduction. “We do not know any of that but,” stated Repair Schaefer. “The Small Enterprise Administration has to make the principles, laws and the types for these grants. They know the way dire it’s for all of the entities which might be making use of and there is a motivation to get the cash to them effectively and expeditiously.” Within the meantime, which hopefully will solely be a matter of weeks, NIVA has raised over $3 million for its personal Emergency Aid Fund to tide over the venues in most dire straits earlier than they’ll get federal funding (corporations like Anheuser-Busch, Spotify, and Jagermeister have all donated to NIVA). “We have had about $14 million of requests, and we solely had $3 million raised, so we’re attempting to generate extra,” stated Repair Schaefer.
The Save Our Levels Act sends a vital lifeline and short-term reduction to an trade that might’ve been completely decimated with none federal help (NIVA estimates that over 300 music venues completely closed in 2020), however there’s nonetheless a protracted highway forward for dwell music’s secure return. Sen. Klobuchar and different high Democrats have signaled the need for further stimulus, which NIVA helps, particularly expanded pandemic unemployment. “The most important challenges in 2021 might be to safe the federal funding in addition to flip to reopening,” stated Repair Schaefer. Over the previous weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that theaters and other venues could return in the fall “if every little thing goes proper” with vaccine distribution, virus circumstances, and herd immunity. That is an enormous if, however it doesn’t matter what, NIVA goes to make use of its organizing efforts to struggle for impartial venues and coordinate sources to assist them safely reopen once they can.