WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), spoke on the Senate Floor and highlighted the inclusion of her bipartisan Save Our Stages legislation in the coronavirus relief package.
“We are in a public health and economic crisis, and the live entertainment industry has been particularly hard-hit during the coronavirus pandemic. These live entertainment venues were among the first businesses to close, and they will almost certainly be among the last to reopen,” Klobuchar said. “We did not want to be the Congress that lets the music die. We did want this to be the year that we let our cultural icons die. And we didn’t.”
Full transcript of remarks below and video available online HERE.
Mr. President, I rise today to thank all of my colleagues who worked so hard on the bill that is coming to the floor today, the pandemic relief package and we know all the top priorities in there, the vaccine distribution. And I want to thank Senator Schumer and leaders and those on both sides of the aisle that put more funding into that. I want to thank the group that has worked so hard on this agreement and this negotiation and the Senate for their work, including Senator Manchin and Senator Romney and Senator Warner and Senator Shaheen and Hassan and Senator Durbin as well as all of their Republican colleagues.
Senator Collins and Murkowski, Senator Cassidy that worked so hard on this original agreement with many others that joined in as well. This bill contains such important priorities, including unemployment and help to our hospitals and help to our rural areas, housing, rent, small businesses, unemployment, the direct checks. I think we all know that there is more work to be done including next year, including for our cities and our states.
But it is so important that we get this done by the end of the year. And I wanted to focus on something that I've worked on for quite a while with Senator Cornyn from Texas. We've done this on a bipartisan basis from the beginning. And it's the Save Our Stages Act. When we first introduced it in July, we knew that it was going to be a long road.
We also knew that the only way we would get this done is by sticking together as a team and by working with other members of Congress from red and blue states and by the end, as this bill is included in full in this package. We had 57 Senators that sponsored this bill out of 100 with many more supporting it. We had over 200 House members.
We worked so hard to make this about America and American music and American theater and American culture. We all know that you can't go stand in a mosh pit in the middle of a pandemic. These live entertainment venues were among the first businesses to close and they will almost certainly be among the last to reopen.
And this was about -- yes, Nashville and New York, but it was just as much about the Fargo Theatre or a small small country music venue in Texas. And while we see the light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines, we know that it will be quite a while before these businesses which operate on such thin margins as it is can keep going. And I think we also know the importance of the arts and music, not only as a cultural icon in America, but also as an economic driver. It's one of our number one exports when you combine all of it and the fact that we were able to stick together with not only the nitty gritty of this bill in this coalition and actually add partners as we went along is a tribute to all the musicians out there, all the venues, all the lighting operators, all the truckers - everyone that came together and said “We’re going to get this done.” Because I know when Senator Cornyn and I first introduced it, people patted us on the head and said “oh this sounds nice,” but I think when people started to hear the facts and how much this mattered to economies and even small towns, it made a difference.
And in the end, to quote Minnesota's own Bob Dylan, from times they are changing, when he says, “Come Senators, Congressmen, please heed the call, don't stand in the doorway, don't block the hall.” No one blocked the hall.
I want to thank my colleagues and I want to especially thank Senator Cornyn, we've led many bills together and we had to go back and forth a lot.
I want to thank Dayna Frank, who is the head of First Avenue in Minnesota, made famous of course by Prince. Prince wouldn't be Prince if not for First Avenue. Everyone in our state when they think about First Avenue, they think about Prince. And she's the head of the National Venue Association. She called me one night in the beginning of the pandemic and said, “I just can't make it through this without some help.” And yea, they got a PPP loan, but that was not enough for these venues because of the unique circumstance where they cannot partially open. You can't go to a theater right now and sit elbow to elbow with your friends and family.
I also want to thank my legislative director, Doug Calidas, who has worked on this from the beginning, including all the last month late night negotiations and did a wonderful job. I want to thank Senator Schumer, McConnell, Pelosi, Representative Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi, and Representative McCarthy, Leader McCarthy for getting this over the finish line, Senator McConnell for putting it in his original bill and then Senator Schumer, who cares so much about this because of all of the great music and acts and everything coming out of New York state and it was certainly very, very helpful. And that would put it mildly to have Senator Schumer in the room where it happens where the last negotiations were made.
I also want to thank Senator Shaheen and Collins who worked on this in the original negotiation and Senator Cardin and Rubio with the Small Business Committee who made this a priority. And then finally, our House authors, our bipartisan House authors, Representative Welch and Representative Williams for their work.
So how this works, the Small Business Administration will create a new 15 billion dollar grant program to help venues cover 6 months of expenses and make it through this pandemic.
We're very hopeful that once the summer comes that we're going to see more and more openings because of the vaccines because of what I hope will be with the new administration and increased emphasis on testing. And that we'll see more and more venues be able to open. The grants can be used to cover all the major costs the venues have to pay to stay in business including rent and mortgage utilities, employee wages, key benefits, maintenance costs, state and local taxes, payments to contractors, purchases of protective equipment.
Venues that are at the greatest risk of closing, and sadly, we've already lost a number of our venues will have priority access to the majority of the grant funding. All venues will be able to apply within four weeks of the program's launch with the Small Business Administration. But in the first two weeks, those venues that have suffered 90 percent revenue loss over the year before will be the first to be able to apply for these grants. So, we don't want to be in Congress to let the music die and we don't want that to happen to any of our other places of culture in America either.
That's why over the last month or so we have worked with the museums and with the zoos and I want to especially thank Senator Schumer for his work on that as well as Senator Blunt and many others who worked with us. And we wanted to make sure and as well as the movie theaters, we wanted to make sure that if we expanded our coalition that we didn't hurt the originals, which were these small small theaters and small music venues across the country. We did not do this, because this new program will be a lifeline for small entertainment venues across the country.
Like First Avenue and like the Bluestem Amphitheatre in Moorhead, Minnesota. It will also help the millions of Americans who work behind the scenes and who have been sidelined from the engineers and truck drivers to the ticket takers and the designers and the spot operators. It will help revive the local economies of neighborhoods and small towns across this nation.
It is not every day that a coalition sticks together from beginning to end, that they've kept with their original purpose haven't been picked off, haven't gotten in fighting, but this group did it and maybe it's because so many Americans at home right now cherish music and entertainment and that part of America like they've never done, but they're watching things alone. They're listening to concerts by themselves, they are listening to them on their iPhones or computers and it’s not quite the same. And we also know all of these artists that don't exactly get a big boost up by themselves with huge funding when they first start out. So many of them start at these little venues, a country music fan playing at that Bluestem Amphitheatre. A little local theater troupe trying out a new play in Lanesboro, Minnesota. They can't do it without these venues.
So today we celebrate the fact that we held together and not only are we passing this bill as part of this package, we actually brought in friends and we brought in partners and we made it even a bigger deal than it was to begin with. So, as I began by quoting the great Bob Dylan from Minnesota, I will end. He once said “Well I sing by night, wander by day. I'm on the road and it looks like I'm here to stay.”
Finally, we are reaching out to this group of employees and these businesses and say, we want you to be here to stay. So thank you to Save Our Stages and all of our colleagues that worked so hard on this. And special thanks to my friend, Senator Cornyn again, when we did this, we didn't know if we would be able to mount this grassroots effort, but it happened because artists and fans just wouldn't give up.
So thank you very much. I yield the floor.