The entertainment industry has spent the better part of the COVID-19 pandemic pushing for increased funding and protections as venues have closed in response to near–totally shuttered business. Now, the second pandemic-related stimulus package, which Congress agreed to on December 20 and which is set to pass in the coming days, includes multiple provisions set to impact the entertainment industry. Most prominently, the package includes the Save Our Stages bill, introduced by a bipartisan group of congresspeople, to provide funding to independent music venues, movie theaters, comedy clubs, theaters, museums, and other cultural venues. The $900 billion stimulus package will include $15 billion for cultural institutions, which is set to allow venues that were open at the end of February 2020 to request 47 percent of their previous year’s revenue, up to $12 million. Many cultural institutions weren’t able to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans in the earlier months of the pandemic, as many venues haven’t even been able to open.
A group of over 3,000 independent venues, the National Independent Venue Association, has lobbied for pandemic-related aid since forming in April. “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 COVID-19 Relief Bill,” said president Dayna Frank, the owner and CEO of Minneapolis’s First Avenue Productions, in a statement. “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.” Senator Amy Klobuchar, one of the bill’s original sponsors, told Variety that she expects more aid for cultural institutions to follow. “Every month that goes by, you learn about who has been hardest hit — people as well as businesses — and we’re going to have the benefit of that hindsight by February,” she said.
The stimulus package will be part of an even larger $2.3 trillion omnibus bill that will also affect the cultural sector in a few other ways. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it will include a proposal to make streaming unlicensed movies and music a felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison. Now that doesn’t mean you’re going to jail for pirating one movie — the bill targets operators, and Senator Thom Tillis, a co-sponsor, clarified on Twitter that it “will not apply to internet users.”
The larger spending bill also establishes two new Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.: the National Women’s Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino, according to the New York Times. That proposal previously caused a pause in discussions around the spending bill when Republican senator Mike Lee objected after the Senate attempted to pass the bill by unanimous consent. He cited “cultural inclusion.” Both museums have been years in the making; the Latino Museum was first floated in 1993, and the Women’s Museum was first proposed in 2003. The former is estimated to cost $600 million, while the latter would cost $375 million.