A $10 billion bill that will help keep the lights on along Broadway took center stage Friday as Sen. Chuck Schumer vowed to fight for entertainment venues hard hit by the coronavirus crisis.
The New York Democrat and Theater District representatives touted the proposed Save Our Stages Act as a much-needed lifeline to live venues and most importantly Broadway, which has been shut down since the beginning of the pandemic.
“The phantom of COVID has hit Broadway maybe the hardest of all live venues in America,” Schumer said at Duffy Square at Seventh Avenue and West 47th Street. “We’re fighting to make sure New York City and Broadway get a lion king share of federal relief.”
Schumer said that under the bipartisan bill, which he co-sponsored, $12 million would go toward “big theaters,” with a cut for smaller venues as well.
“This money is flexible,” he explained. “They can use it for whatever they need to stay in business, including paying key valued employees who we don’t want to just leave.”
Charlotte St. Martin, president of trade association The Broadway League, said the bill is needed to kick-start the dwindling industry.
“Productions need money for rehearsals to get people back because they haven’t been performing for nine months, to get thousands and thousands of cast members and get them working,” she said.
The Save Our Stages Act was first introduced in July by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and would provide six months of Small Business Administration grants to live music venue operators that have taken a hit during COVID-19.
The bill is included in the overall COVID-19 relief package that’s been stalled in Congress.
Schumer urged all Americans to email their senators “and say we need you to support Save Our Stages.” He said if there’s no vaccine by next spring, he plans to push for renewing the bill, if it’s passed.
“My job as minority leader is to make sure Save Our Stages is in that bill,” he said.
The leading Democrat was hopeful that the bill would get approved as part of the Heroes Act.
“The likelihood is getting better,” Schumer said. “There were 20 conservative Republicans who wanted this in the Senate.”
Last week, Schumer — whose cousin is stand-up comedian Amy Schumer — teamed up with Jerry Seinfeld to push for the federal legislation, which also has the support of artists like Lady Gaga, Billy Joel and the Foo Fighters.