Washington DC’s Council has passed a bill which could provide relief for theatre professionals who have lost work as a result of the COVID-19.
The legislation, DC Act 23-247, provides that nonprofits and self-employed individuals not eligible for unemployment compensation could apply to the Mayor for a grant if they suffer “financial distress caused by a reduction in business revenue due to the circumstances giving rise to or resulting from the public health emergency.”
Grant money could be used to continue employee wages and benefits, pay operating costs (including taxes and debt service) or repay loans obtained through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals could use the grants to continue to pay themselves for revenue lost as a result of theatre shutdowns due to the coronavirus.
Similarly, DC theatre companies who elect to keep staff on board or to pay actors for the cancelled portion of their scheduled run are eligible to receive grants to pay those costs. Companies which cannot pay salaries for missed work but who want to pay benefits will also be able to apply for grants from the City to pay those costs. Theatres which close down entirely and furlough their staffs will still be able to apply for benefits to pay their debt service and other operating costs.
The benefits available to nonprofits and the self-employed will also be available to certain for-profit small businesses. The bill enacts several other protections for businesses and individuals in the City of Washington, including a clause which provides that a person out of work because of the health emergency is immediately eligible for unemployment compensation without the customary waiting period, and is not required to show that he looked for work during the period of compensation. A complete text of the bill is available here.
Laid-off employees and independent contractors should visit the DC Department of Employment services. Nonprofit theatre companies and venues should visit the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development, according to Eric Salmi, who serves as Communications Director for the DC Council. Salmi expects that the websites will have procedures and be ready to process applications in the next few days.
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The bill was introduced with broad co-sponsorship, amended, given its final reading, approved, transmitted to the Mayor, signed by the Mayor and returned yesterday.
“I want to thank Council Chair Phil Mendelson and all of my colleagues along with the Mayor and her team for a collaborative approach on this important first step to provide relief to as many District residents and businesses as we can,” said Council Member Charles Allen (D.-DC6) “We aren’t getting the support we need from the federal government, but we will keep working to do whatever we can to help mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus and support those who are feeling the pain right now of those steps.” Salmi agreed. “Hopefully, this will be a bridge.” He expects more assistance will be coming.
“Theatre companies can show revenues lost from ticket sales while venues can demonstrate lost revenue from rentals,” said ANC Commissioner, producer and actor Edward Daniels, most known on these pages as the founder of DC’s annual Monologue Madness. “The Public Health Emergency Grant is not a loan.” If needed, loans are available to nonprofits affected by COVID-19 pandemic from the U.S. Small Business Administration.