More Government Relief

The Dramatists Guild has learned that the new congressional Covid relief bill intends to provide continued financial support for gig workers and freelance workers, including many dramatists who do not qualify for traditional unemployment relief. The COVID Relief Bill is over 5,600 pages long; neither the House, the Senate, nor the theatre community at large has had sufficient time to fully analyze it, and the President is currently threatening not to sign it without further amendments. 

However, in its current form, it has been reported to include such provisions for relief as:

  • An extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program to April 5, 2021 (with a phase-out beginning in mid-March), including an extension of the eligibility period to 50 weeks;

  • An extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation (PEUC) program for salaried/hourly workers to April 5, 2021, once the applicant has exhausted their state Unemployment Insurance (UI);

  • "Mixed earners" with 1099/W2 income who were ineligible for PUA  will receive a weekly bonus of $100 for the duration of their state UI/PEUC benefits;

  • And all recipients of unemployment (state UI, PUA, PEUC) will receive an extra $300 week from December 26, 2020 to March 14, 2021.

The new bill will also ensure another year of federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Each organization will receive an appropriation of $167.5 million, which is $5.25 million more than the 2020 enacted levels. This relief bill includes language which will permit grant funds that were appropriated in both 2019 and 2020 to be used for operating expenses.

This bill is also set to include another round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), as well as the bipartisan Save Our Stages act. 

Save Our Stages will provide approximately $15 billion in federal relief to performance venues, including concert halls and theatre operators, as part of Congress' overall $900 billion relief package. 

The Save our Stages grant program will include the following terms:

  • $2 billion of overall funding will be reserved for grants to entities with 50 or fewer employees, using a full-time equivalent calculation.

  • Applicants will calculate their grant amount based on 45% of an entity's earned revenue in 2019.

  • Total grants received by an eligible entity are capped at $10 million per recipient.

  • Grants may be used for costs incurred from March 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021 (and supplemental grants may be used from March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022).

  • Allowable expenses include payroll, including payments to independent contractors; rent; fixed costs like mortgage and debt payments; as well as maintenance expenses, administrative costs, and other expenses.

Theatres that meet the following criteria will be eligible to apply for these grants:

  • Theatres can qualify to apply, even if they do not own their performance space. “Live performing arts organization operators” are specifically eligible and are defined as an individual or entity that “as a principal business activity, organizes, promotes, produces, manages, or hosts live concerts, comedy shows, theatrical productions, other events by performing artists."

  • Eligibility is offered to for-profit and nonprofit applicants, as well as independent motion picture theatre operators, museum operators, and talent representatives.

  • Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 25% decline in gross earned revenue in one calendar quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter in 2019, to qualify to apply.

  • An applicant may have received a PPP forgivable loan in 2020, but must choose whether to seek an SOS grant or apply for a second PPP loan after the new bill is signed into law.

  • Eligible applicants must submit a good faith certification that "the uncertainty of current economic conditions makes necessary the grant to support the ongoing operations," and certain applicants must abide by requirements that the recipient "will not abrogate existing collective bargaining agreements" and "will remain neutral in any union organizing effort."

Read more about how this bill will hopefully benefit theatres and dramatists here.

Many theatres throughout the country have been closed since March 2020, and will remain closed for many more months to come. According to Dr. Fauci's projections, live theatre will likely not return until Fall 2021, at the earliest. "This bill gives [theatres] a fighting chance," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, during a speech on the congressional floor on Sunday,  December 20, the night before Congress wrote and voted on this second Covid Relief bill.

The new Covid relief bill will hopefully prove to be a step forward, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that the theatre community is given the full federal support that it desperately needs during this unprecedented era in American history. We are calling on DG members to help us in a historic letter writing initiative to the new administration. Click the button below to learn more. 

We are committed to keeping our members informed, and we will share more details regarding the Covid Relief Bill, as more knowledge becomes available.

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