Rumor Has It
A Christmas Miracle
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Though it is certainly a necessary measure, I can’t say I was super-excited when I heard the news that the federal government passed an 11th-hour, $900 billion stimulus plan after months of partisan bickering and an historic lack of action that has damaged the lives of millions of Americans. And while money is nice and I’m certainly not going to tell the federal government to keep my allotment, a $600 check, when divided by the number of months this nation’s citizens have been left hanging, isn’t exactly the support people need.
But then I heard a piece of news worth celebrating.
Contained within the 5,593 pages of the plan that determine how the money will be divided and who it will be allotted to is $15 billion in relief money for indie music venues, movie theaters, performance spaces and other cultural institutions as part of the Save Our Stages act.
I don’t know what a Christmas miracle looks like, but I have a feeling it closely resembles $15 billion in government aid for an industry that has been decimated beyond measure by COVID-19 shutdowns.
The specifics of the plan will allow independent venues to apply for Small Business Association grants to cover six months worth of payroll and other costs including rent, utilities and maintenance. Applicants have to have lost at least 25 percent of their annual revenue to qualify for the assistance and preference will be given to those businesses that have lost 90 percent or more of their revenue—a benchmark that a staggering amount of these venues and institutions will have no trouble meeting. Just as important as who is eligible to receive it, are the folks barred from applying: publicly traded companies and large corporations. We’ve all seen how other forms of government aid have been unfairly awarded to those who don’t absolutely need it at the expense of those who absolutely can’t live without it.
Is $15 billion enough to truly save our stages? No. Of course it isn’t. Nor will it bring back the venues—some longstanding and iconic, all part of the network of stages that make touring possible and music scenes vibrant—that have closed permanently, unable to hang on for months without an end in sight. It also won’t keep other venues from having to make the same brutally difficult decision to shutter.
But it will help. It will absolutely save some of our venues and give others the breathing room needed to scare up other sources of funding. It’s been too long in coming, but miracles aren’t known for sticking to a schedule.