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Oregon senators sign off on emergency relief for independent venues

Credit: Pexels (pexels.com)

This week, Oregon senators signed a letter to the senate urging support for emergency relief for closed independent venues. Arguing these venues are being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley signed a letter with 41 of their colleagues’ signatures. Read the full letter of support here.

Independent venues face disproportionate consequences

After Portland venues called on the public to pressure state representatives to pass emergency funding measures for places like the Roseland Theater and 45 East, an outpouring of attention has productively steered the conversation. When the pandemic initially forced closures across the country in March, local venues were among the first to go. What’s worse: they will likely be amid the last to re-open, and are forecasted to operate at a significantly lower capacity, post-pandemic. 

Unable to generate virtually any income, most venues have had no choice but to layoff employees.Many individuals, and small business owners, have been able to access emergency financial relief. Those payments, however, are limited. Most relief efforts, so far, target the wider population- with no fixed support for disproportionately affected industries.

Surviving venues call on the public for help

Now a few months into the mass closures, independent venues are beginning to feel the strain. Despite community crowdfunding, some in our own region are forced to evaluate permanent closures.

Surviving venues across the country partnered with the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), forging a campaign to pass relief measures. As of May 23rd, half a million messages to local representatives, on behalf of the effort, had been sent.

We would like to thank everyone who has contacted their local representative so far! 500,000 strong and counting. We still have work to do to #saveourstages #niva

Posted by NIVA – National Independent Venue Association on Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Senate opens door to discuss relief funding

Just two days prior, senators drafted their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The correspondence points out challenges unique to the live music industry, with 43 signatures led by Texas Senators Thomas Carper and John Cornyn. They warn of the devastating consequences not only to venues, but the multiplied economic effects:

“Each year, thousands of independent venues host millions of events, staffed by hundreds of thousands of employees, and attended by hundreds of millions of concertgoers across all walks of life. These entertainment hubs are important economic multipliers, generating millions in tax revenue and providing jobs in our communities. The business generated by this industry also supports countless neighboring businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and retail.”

Aside from economic losses, the letter concludes with noting the cultural and social losses. Echoing the sentiments so many of us share about live music, losing these established institutions would be devastating. Live music provides an immersive launchpad for creativity, and forging community ties.

Washington representatives yet to sign off on support

Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have yet to pledge their support to the initiative. A separate campaign from NIVA called Washington Nightlife Music Association (WANMA) seeks action specific to the state’s legislation. Iconic Washington venues formed the coalition to encourage contacting representatives, and you can find more information about WANMA here.

While Oregon’s other PNW partner to the north has yet to jump on board, national momentum is encouraging. Even though this time is creating highly difficult obstacles for live music events, public collective action is pressuring our government to protect things that we care about.

Support live music and save our stages by connecting with NIVA here, and use the form to generate an email for your state’s representatives. Until we secure funding for our local venues, their fates hang in the balance. We can’t risk the dissolution of cultural and social fabrics that would follow from the loss of independent venues.

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