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Bonamici, Pingree Push House Leadership to Protect the Arts Economy During COVID-19 Outbreak

March 20, 2020

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) today wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asking them to prioritize the needs of the arts and cultural sector in a COVID-19 economic relief package.

“On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released data showing that arts and cultural economic activity accounted for 4.5 percent of gross domestic product, or $877.8 billion, in 2017, and directly supported 5.1 million jobs across the country,” wrote Pingree, Bonamici, and 50 other members in their letter. “As the country takes necessary measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, that economic activity – and the millions of jobs associated with it – is deeply endangered.”

The lawmakers continued, “From suspended and canceled productions to reduced consumer spending on arts and cultural products, the sector has felt the impact quickly and profoundly. Following a national survey of its members, Americans for the Arts reported financial losses of an estimated $3.2 billion to date. Importantly, the survey also showed that this is hurting communities nationwide – large cities, rural towns, and everywhere in between.”

To support the arts industries, Pingree and Bonamici pushed for three items: $4 billion in emergency funding accessible to the arts community; targeted employee relief to entertainment workers, whose employment structures likely leave them ineligible under current paid leave and unemployment programs; and enhanced deductions for charitable support of nonprofits, arts or otherwise.

The bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law on March 18, provides two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for eligible workers, as well as enhanced Unemployment Insurance. It also supports small businesses by fully reimbursing them for providing leave. However, many entertainment industry workers are considered freelancers, contractors, or independent workers, employed by many different productions or gigs every year to earn their living, and lack the traditional employment structure that facilitates eligibility.

Pingree is the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus. She also serves as the Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, where she oversees the NEA and arts funding. Bonamici is the founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional STEAM Caucus.

Posted on March 20, 2020 in Press Releases, COVID-19 updates.