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Schumer Secured Dedicated Fed COVID Relief For Putnam County Venues And Theaters, An Increase In The COBRA Health Insurance Program To Keep Laid Off Workers Insured, And An Extension Of Historic Unemployment Insurance

Help Is On The Way For Stages; American Rescue Plan Provides Vital Support To Artists Out Of Work And Cultural Hubs Struggling To Stay Afloat

Schumer To Putnam County: With Millions For Independent Live Venues On The Way, The Show Must Go On! 

At the Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, NY which will host the return of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF) to Putnam County this season, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer detailed the benefits available to the Hudson Valley’s live venues, performers, and artists through the American Rescue Plan, including critical relief to struggling independent live venues, movie theaters, and cultural institutions, increased COBRA health insurance benefits, and additional federal relief for struggling New Yorkers, including gig workers and others in non-traditional employment.

Schumer explained how each of these pieces of legislation will help artists, performers, and live venues, like the HVSF, stay afloat throughout the pandemic. Schumer said independent venues, performers, and artists are the beating heart of the Hudson Valley’s cultural life and a driving force in the local economy, and the COVID package that he negotiated, prioritizes the venues and everyone who supports them as the critical cultural hubs that they are.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, independent venues, like theaters and concert halls, are the beating heart of the Hudson Valley’s cultural life and a driving force in the economy,” said Senator Schumer. “Far too many seasonal local venues, like the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, had to cancel their 2020 season because of the pandemic, and they've been struggling to stay afloat. The COVID package that I negotiated, prioritizes these venues and everyone who supports them as the critical cultural hubs that they are.”

Schumer added, “The dedicated federal assistance to independent venues ensures that when it is safe to do so, we can gather again for comedy, music, theater, and movies and to once again enjoy the cultural institutions that have been around for generations. The final COVID relief package will help these places keep the lights and the laughs on, and keep the curtain from closing on Putnam County.”

Schumer said that live venues are a part of one of the hardest-hit industries right now, and the dedicated assistance will save many venues from permanently shutting their doors to the public. The senator said the federal assistance was imperative because independent venues not only drive economic activity within communities through restaurants, hotels, taxis, and other transportation and retail establishments, but live events provide 75% of all artists’ income.

"COVID-19 left the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival completely dark in the summer of 2020 - it was devastating for our theater to lose 100% of earned income and for our community to lose the beloved summertime ritual of gathering together under our Theater Tent," said Kate Liberman, Managing Director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. "Save Our Stages will allow us to reopen. Our audience and seasonal staff of artists, many of whom spent this past year out of work, will once again contribute to the Hudson Valley's economy through spending at local restaurants, small businesses, and more.  We are thrilled to be able to be one of the first theaters to reopen in New York State, reinvigorating the local economy, and \once again safely gathering with our community in the powerful act of theater making. We are incredibly grateful to Senator Schumer for his efforts in bringing our iconic open-air Theater Tent back to the grounds of the Boscobel this summer."

Founded in 1987, Schumer explained that the HVSF has presented repertory theatre under its iconic open-air Theater Tent each summer for over 35,000 audience members, while also reaching over 30,000 students, families, and educators in schools and communities throughout the Hudson Valley. The HVSF audience is mostly comprised of local, Hudson Valley residents and its annual economic impact is estimated at $4.6 million per year. On top of the annual HVSF audience of nearly 35,000 supporting local small businesses as they go out to dinner and shop along Main Street, the HVSF is one of the largest employers in western Putnam County. The HVSF's160-person seasonal staff of directors, designers, actors, technicians, ushers, concessionaires, and more, consists of local and national union talent. These staff members live, work, and play in the community during the summer season leaving a significant impact on local small businesses. HVSF was completely dark in the summer of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Schumer explained how the American Rescue Plan (ARP) benefits artists who are out of work and cultural hubs throughout the state struggling to stay afloat. Specifically, ARP covers 100 percent of costs for the COBRA health insurance program which will help workers who lost their job through no fault of their own retain their health insurance. Additionally, the legislation provides multiple sources of critical relief to struggling independent live venues, movie theaters, and cultural institutions by allowing eligible entities under the Save Our Stages program to get a PPP loan and a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, and it included $1.25 billion in additional funding for the program, on top of the $15 billion Schumer secured in December. The bill also provides billions in additional federal relief for struggling New Yorkers by extending the historic unemployment insurance reforms established in the CARES Act, through September 6, 2021. It continues the critical lifeline of the enhanced federal unemployment assistance, providing an additional $300 per week on top of all state and federal unemployment benefits. The bill extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers, and others in non-traditional employment, as well as the additional weeks of federal unemployment insurance for workers who exhaust their regular state benefits.

Previously, in December 2020, Schumer negotiated the Save Our Stages Act into the bipartisan COVID relief package, which provided $15 billion nationally for independent live venue operators, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions such as live performing arts organizations and museums that have been significantly impacted by the economic effects of the COVID crisis. Specifically, the COVID relief package created a new Small Business Administration (SBA) grant program for independent live venue operators, promoters, producers, talent representatives, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. These grants can be used for payroll costs, rent, mortgage, utilities, and personal protective equipment, and other needs, and will help keep the industry alive and rebound as the Hudson Valley emerges from the pandemic. According to the HVSF, Save Our Stages will be a lifeline for reopening so that HVSF’s audience and large seasonal staff of artists, who have spent the last year out of work, can once again contribute to the Hudson Valley economy through spending at local restaurants, small businesses, and more.  

Schumer also briefly discussed other wins for Putnam County in the American Rescue Plan. Out of the estimated more than $100 billion headed to New York, the Putnam County and the Hudson Valley will receive:

  • Approximately $113 million in direct payments to around 45,000 households in Putnam County, $342 million to around 137,000 households in Dutchess County, and $204 million to around 82,000 households in Ulster County
  • More than $19.07 million going in state and local aid towards Putnam County

Putnam County and the Hudson Valley will also receive a sizable portion of the following funds:

  • Medicaid FMAP Increase: $2.7 Billion($2.1 billion already delivered from Schumer pushing President Biden to extend through the end of the calendar year, in addition to approximately 600 million from a targeted enhanced FMAP for home and community-based services from this legislation)
  • Amtrak Relief: $1.7 Billion (Relief for Amtrak to help maintain operations and other expenditures during the pandemic, especially in New York.)
  • Airline Payroll Support Program Enhancement: $15 Billion (The CARES Act Airline Payroll Support Program which will save thousands of New York airline and airline contractor jobs by keeping workers on payroll without furloughs or reducing pay rates and benefits until March 31, 2021, New York will receive a sizable share of these funds.)
  • Child Care and Help for NY Families: $5.3 Billion
  • Enhanced Unemployment Benefits for NYers: $21.7 Billion
  • New Covid-19 Vaccine Procurement and Testing: $4 Billion
  • Small Business, Restaurant, and Live Venue Relief: $57.8 Billion
  • Broadband Connectivity: $632 Million