Congress agrees on COVID-19 relief bill with funding for live music venues

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Congress reached an agreement on a new COVID-19 relief bill, which will include funding for live music venues, including ones here in Chicago.

Empty Bottle in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood has been streaming rooftop concerts on it's website throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many other music venues, it has been pleading for relief for months. Now they may get some.

The Save Our Stages Act has folded into the COVID-19 relief package, and will include as much as $15 billion for independent music venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions that have been closed throughout the pandemic.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Chuck Schumer said, “I’m especially pleased this this bill will provide money for bars and restaurants, and $15 billion in SPA grants for theater operators and small venue operators through the Save Our Stages Act. These venues are so important to my state and so many other states across the country. They are the lifeblood of our communities. They were the first to close and will be the last to open. This bill gives them a fighting chance.”

The fight to offer targeted funding to venues got a boost in July when Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Save Our Stages Act. That piece of legislation, which was effectively rolled into the new bill, will allow venues to use federal money to cover things like rent, mortgages, utilities, insurance and other expenses.

Venues said this will give them a fighting chance. The money will help countless venues stay afloat until shows and tours can resume - even as some could not hang on and have already permanently closed.

Dayna Frank, owner and CEO of First Avenue Productions and Board President of the National Independent Venues Association, praised the agreement in a statement.

“We’re thrilled that Congress has heard the call of shuttered independent venues across the country and provided us a crucial lifeline by including the Save Our Stages Act in the Omnibus COVID-19 Relief Bill,” Frank said. “We’re also incredibly grateful that this bill provides Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which will help the millions of people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own during this economic crisis. We urge swift passage of this legislation, which will assist those in the greatest need and ensure the music lives on for generations to come.”