With the $900 billion coronavirus-relief stimulus bill finally signed December 27, our readers are wondering: What’s in it for the theater community? And what’s in it for individuals? We will highlight responses to those two questions in this article. As with any legislation, the devil is not only in the text or even the provisions, but in how they might be implemented by regulations or grant announcements at Federal, state, and local levels. So we will continue to follow implementation of the new legislation over the next days, weeks, and months and report back to you.
What’s in the stimulus legislation for performing arts organizations?
Contained in the $900 billion stimulus bill are critical provisios to dedicate $15 billion in funding nationally for “Grants for Shuttered Venue Operators.” These grants are tucked into a larger section titled “Continuing the Paycheck Protection Program and Other Small Business Support.”
The $15 billion grant program will be under the administrative purview of the Small Business Administration (SBA). The program is not only for live theater venues such as members of theatreWashington or Broadway houses. There is a broad array of persons and entities eligible to apply. They include live venue operators or promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organization operators (music venues), museum operators, motion picture theater operators, and talent representatives who demonstrate a 25 percent reduction in revenues. Other arts entities with an interest in the $15 billion were hightlighted in this recent Washington Post article.
The legislation provides further guidance to the SBA:
- The SBA may make an initial grant of up to $10 million to an eligible person or entity and a supplemental grant that is equal to 50 percent of the initial grant.
- Such grants shall be used for specified expenses such as payroll costs, rent, utilities, and personal protective equipment.
- The SBA is required to conduct increased oversight of eligible persons and entities receiving these grants and must submit a report on the oversight to Congress.
For DC-area persons or entities interested in applying for the new funds, there are these legislative provisions to be aware of as well:
- $2 billion of these funds are reserved for entities with 50 or fewer full-time employees.
- Grant amounts are based on 45 percent of the recipient’s 2019 gross earned revenue.
- Eligible theater and museum entities are those that have lost at least 25 percent of their revenues during the pandemic.
- The initial grant can total up to $10 million per eligible business; a second grant, worth half the amount of the first, may also be available.
- During the first 14 days of the program’s implementation, grants will be awarded to those entities that have faced 90 percent revenue losses; then during the next two weeks, those that have experienced at least 70 percent revenue losses will be eligible; after the first month of the program, any other eligible businesses can receive grants.
Application details regarding the $15 billion will be the responsibility of the SBA. And SBA senior poliical officials are expected to change after President Biden’s inauguration at noon January 20, 2021.
Beyond the $15 billion dedicated to the arts, there are also funds that arts entities should be aware of including about $284 billion to the U.S. Small Business Administration for Paycheck Protection Program forgivable small business loans as well an allocation of $20 billion to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). In addition, $12 billion is to be set aside to help businesses in low-income and minority communities.
Implementation guidance related to the dedicated $15 billion and other funds can be found on the SBA website.
What’s in the new legislation for arts workers and their families?
The new stimulus bill contains a number of provisions aimed directly at individuals and families well beyond the dedicated $15 billion:
- $166 billion for economic impact payments of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $1,200 for married couples making up to $150,000 per year, as well as a $600 payment for each child dependent. (As of this writing, the House has sent to the Senate a measure to raise each such $600 payment to $2,000. Whether the Senate will consider it is uncertain.)
- $120 billion to provide workers receiving unemployment benefits a $300 per week supplement from Dececember 26 until March 14, 2021. This bill also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, with expanded coverage to the self-employed, gig workers, and others in nontraditional employment, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals who exhaust their regular state benefits.
- $25 billion in emergency rental aid and an extension of the national eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.
- $13 billion for emergency food assistance, including a 15 percent increase for six months in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
- $10 billion in child-care assistance.
In addition, the new legislation contains $45 billion in transportation funding, including $14 billion for transit systems such as Metro, which is considering service cuts on late nights and weekends. There are also budget increases for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).