What the New Relief Package Means for the Music Ecosystem
Congress reached a deal to provide the American public with additional COVID-19 relief on Sunday, December 20, 2020. The relief package is attached to an end-of-year government spending bill to be voted on Monday, December 21 and signed into law by the president. This page will be updated as the Recording Academy learns more.
The package includes $900 billion in new COVID-19 relief that will fund many critical provisions to assist struggling creators to survive the enduring financial hardship inflicted by the pandemic:
- Expands critical pandemic unemployment assistance programs for eligible self-employed workers
- Increases the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program to April 5, 2021, including an extension of the eligibility period to 50 weeks
- Authorizes a $100 per week bonus payment for music makers with mixed income (a combination of W2/1099 wages) to offset some of the eligibility complications encountered under the CARES Act
- Re-imagines the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program by funding it at $300 per week in additional unemployment benefits for all individuals receiving unemployment assistance until March 14.
- Establishes a $15 billion supplemental fund to assist live entertainment venues and other struggling cultural institutions
- Authorizes $15 billion in Small Business Administration (SBA) grants for eligible live venue operators or promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organization operators, museum operators, motion picture theatre operators, or talent representatives who demonstrate a 25% reduction in revenue
- The agency will make initial grants of up to $10 million per eligible entity and a supplemental grant that is equal to 50% of the initial grant, which can be used for payroll costs, rent, utilities, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Modeled after the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act, the program helps independent venues survive the enduring impact of the pandemic and ensure live music can return to the stage safely in the future
- Check back for guidance on this new program
- Replenishes Small Business Administration loan programs for self-employed workers and small businesses
- Appropriates $284 billion for both first and second rounds of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for individual, self-employed music makers and small businesses, which may be fully forgiven if primarily used on payroll expenses.
- Replenishes the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program with $20 billion in new funding, awarding self-employed workers and businesses a special advance grant up to $10,000 to pay for expenses.
- The EIDL application can be found HERE.
- Allocates $3 billion in funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) in an attempt to address the uneven impact of COVID-19 felt by minority-owned businesses and underserved communities.
What the CARES Act Meant for Music Makers
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package, contained a number of key protections and provisions that put music creators in a better position for immediate and long-term relief.
As the benefits rolled out nationwide, there were several key areas of relief that certain music creators were eligible for:
- Designed a new pandemic unemployment assistance program for eligible self-employed workers
- Available to self-employed music professionals who, due to the effects of the Coronavirus, are out of work or unable to work.
- Eligibility for unemployment benefits was retroactive and the duration of unemployment benefits was extended for an additional 13 weeks (beyond the standard 26 weeks) through the end of the year.
- In addition to standard unemployment benefits, individuals also received an additional $600 per week for a period of four months, ending July 31.
- 8/1 Update: The FPUC program has now expired. An Executive Order, signed by the President, provided additional temporary unemployment benefits to certain qualified applicants.
- Established new Small Business Administration loans for self-employed workers
- Individual, self-employed music makers were eligible to apply for “paycheck protection” loans from the SBA which may qualify for full loan forgiveness if they are used to provide income support.
- Individual, self-employed music makers were also eligible to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), including a special advance grant up to $10,000 that can be used to pay for expenses and does not have to be repaid.
- Created a $75 million supplemental fund for the National Endowment for the Arts
- 60% of funds were dedicated to direct grants for non-profit organizations and other eligible recipients to respond to the coronavirus.
- The remaining 40% were distributed to state and regional arts councils, which also can go to fund and assist local musicians and artists.
- Funds were available through September 2021 and are in addition to the $162 million appropriated for the NEA in the current fiscal year.
This new compromised solution is a step in the right direction for creators, but Congress’ work on COVID-19 is not done. Once the legislative body returns in January to start the 117th Congress and the Biden Administration begins, the focus must be shifted to establishing long-term solutions to ensure a full recovery once the lockdowns are lifted. These long-term solutions include the passage of the RESTART and HITS Acts, extension of unemployment programs, implementation of critical DMCA reform, and establishment of a performance right for sound recordings broadcast by terrestrial (AM/FM) radio.
WHAT THE RECORDING ACADEMY IS DOING
Recording Academy’s “Contact Congress” campaign resulted in tens of thousands of emails to Congress asking for this relief. At the same time, Academy lobbyists in Washington, working with a broad coalition of entertainment organizations, lobbied key Senators and Congressional leadership. Many of the provisions that would help freelance music professionals were not included in the original drafts and were added as a result of lobbying from the music community.
As the next phase of COVID legislation is already being contemplated, the Academy is working with House and Senate leadership to explore additional areas of support for the music community.