Countdown To COVID Relief: Time For Congress To Provide Relief For Music Creators
Congress is set to adjourn the 116th Congress before the end of the calendar year. But before legislators return to their home districts, the House of Representatives and Senate still have a fair amount of unfinished work to complete, including the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and funding the government. It is also imperative that Congress prioritizes the completion of a comprehensive relief bill to combat the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a new campaign, the Recording Academy is empowering the music community to directly contact Congress in support of numerous pro-music policies. Launched last week, the campaign has already yielded over a thousand letters, which argue that, “The music industry has been one of the most affected industries by COVID-19. With many CARES Act provisions set to expire, and a return to normalcy unlikely in the coming months, our industry needs additional help to survive.”
The letter issues an urgent call to extend the expiring Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) programs, to adopt the Save Our Stages (SOS) and RESTART Acts, to include the Help Independent Tracks Succeed (HITS) Act and to pass the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, which has already passed the House and been voted out of committee in the Senate.
With the year winding down, here are four opportunities for Congress to include this essential relief for the music ecosystem before the end of the year.
Compromised COVID-19 Relief Package
A group of eight senators, dubbed the “908 Coalition,” are working behind the scenes to craft a bipartisan relief package. With a price tag of $908 billion, a recent draft of this package extended the PUA program for 16 weeks, funded a limited FPUC program through April, and included additional small business relief, specifically the Save Our Stages Act and another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. The package has the ability to be amended prior to passage in the House and Senate, giving negotiations another opportunity to include some previously excluded provisions.
The government is on track to shut down when the current funding agreement expires on December 11 (Congress is expected to extend the deadline to December 18 to buy an additional week of negotiation), leaving Congress with the responsibility of negotiating a compromised spending bill in the immediate future. As with any comprehensive spending package, Congressional negotiators have the ability to appropriate funds for new programs, included targeted relief for music creators in this package. It has already been reported that a potential “omnibus” spending bill could include the CASE Act and other key priorities.
With the government funding running out, and several COVID-19 provisions set to expire, Congress could punt on passing more comprehensive agreements in favor of passing a temporary continuing resolution (CR). This stopgap deal would extend government funding into 2021 and could also include limited pandemic relief.
If a compromise on government spending and COVID relief is reached, Congress could still have time to also pass other legislation, including a tax extenders package. Since many current tax provisions are set to expire on Dec. 31, Congress has the ability to both extend expiring provisions and include new initiatives, including the bipartisan and bicameral HITS Act.
Failure to act will leave millions of Americans and small businesses in the dark and without the aid they desperately need. Congress has a responsibility to reauthorize these critical programs before they conclude at the end of the Lame Duck session, or risk having to start anew in the 117th Congress. All introduced bills—even those that have passed the House or Senate—go back to square one on Jan. 3, further delaying and complicating efforts to provide assistance and protections to music creators.