GRANDVILLE, Mich. — A bill to help those working behind-the-scenes was introduced to Washington D.C. Wednesday as a rally is planned to bring attention to an industry halted by COVID-19.
With live event venues still closed, and the extra $600 in unemployment payments expired, thousands in the entertainment and hospitality fields are without work or a way to supplement income.
The Save our Stages Act or SOS Act is a proposed bill that would provide grants for independent live music venue operators to help them afford current bills and the cost to reopen once the pandemic has passed.
Under the SOS Act, venues open before January 1st 2019 could be eligible for up to 45% of their gross revenue from 2019. Grants for venues opened after that date will be adjusted by the venue's monthly gross for 2019. If passed, the money could be used to cover payroll, rent or mortgage, and utility costs between March 1st and December 31st, 2020. Any excess given must be repaid within a year.
FOX 17 has been speaking with members of the event industry as the shutdowns continue to plague the entertainment industry.
The SOS Act was introduced the day before a rally planned in front of Representative Bill Huizenga's office in Grandville. Organizers say Huizenga voted against extending the bonus unemployment payments.
“We paid into unemployment our entire working lives. It is our money and we need it now to pay our bills, pay for housing, and pay for healthcare”, said Josh Roskamp, Business Agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 26 in a statement. Roskamp estimates venues employing thousands across West Michigan could be closed through the end of March 2021.
Organizers tell FOX 17 even though Huizenga's office will be closed, they will be holding signs in support of their industry for passersby to see.
The rally is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and organizers are asking attendants to practice social distancing or wear masks where needed.