Save Our Stages Act Passes With COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

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After months of fending for themselves, the independent places receive relief.

the Save Our Stages Act, a $ 15 billion funding package aimed specifically at independent venues, was signed by President Donald Trump on December 27 as part of a $ 900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill. The law was drafted after months of lobbying from the National Association of Independent Sites, a coalition of more than 1,200 concert halls across the country – including Gainesville’s High Dive – that pushed for government aid during the pandemic.

the act awards individual grants equal to 45% of the gross income of each independent site as of 2019, with a cap of $ 10 million to each establishment. Eligible expenses under the law include all operating costs from March 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021. According to a NIVA statement, the funding will contribute to the payroll and benefits of site employees, rent and mortgages, utilities, insurance and other business expenses.

For sites like High Dive, this type of government assistance makes the difference between surviving and shutting down permanently. With little to no prior help and more than six months of full shutdown, Pat Lavery, High Dive’s facilities and events manager, struggled to keep the business afloat.

“We are relieved to know that help is finally on the way,” he said.

Despite previous assistance such as the Paycheque Protection Program, the law funds represent the first significant relief from COVID-19 at independent sites. P3 loans to small businesses by the federal government in June did little to alleviate the economic pitfalls High Dive faced during the hiatus, Lavery said.

“It was supposed to last two and a half months, but it only lasted about a month for us,” he said.

Save Our Stages funds will be distributed in the form of grants, while PPP funds have been loaned to businesses. The funding will help the sites not only to keep operating, but also to repay the loans that were given as additional aid at the start of the closures.

In terms of help, no place has done exactly the same. High Dive only received the PPP loan and “a bit” of the Alachua County Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Lavery said. Other establishments, such as Crowbar in Ybor City, have received additional support from federal and local governments.

Tom DeGeorge, owner of Crowbar and captain of NIVA’s Florida district, took $ 150,000 Economic disaster loan of the federal government to keep his place alive. The loan, created by the US Small Business Administration specifically for the relief of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, supported Crowbar in the short term.

But with a 30-year long maturity period and Crowbar still months away from business as usual, DeGeorge worries the loan may be unpayable for his venue and others like it.

“If we end up with these loans, our businesses will not survive,” he said.

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The importance of the Save Our Stages law comes from its specificity to concert halls. Unlike other small businesses, sites will not be able to immediately reopen to full capacity once the pandemic is over. Instead, they’ll have to wait until every element of the tour’s economy – artists and patrons as well as the venues themselves – is back in place to continue their normal operations.

A return to normal is expected in fall 2021, Lavery said. The act will function as a cushion until then, covering some of the opening costs as High Dive continues to host live broadcasts and remote shows with limited capacity.

The law funds will allow the sites to continue operating at reduced capacity and reopen safely, helping to make up for lost profits both during the shutdown period and with current limited operations. For site owners, that means catching up on bills and maintaining facility maintenance. For employees, that means staying on the payroll for the next several months.

“This is what is really going to save our industry,” Lavery said.

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