Performers Groups Seek Piece of Massive Coronavirus Aid Package

Unions representing performers in TV, movies, theater, concerts and other venues are calling on congressional leaders to include them in the coronavirus-related stimulus package being hammered out in Washington. 

That came in a letter Friday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.), and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).  

Related: Conan to Produce Show From Home During Pandemic

They started off the letter by expressing their "sincere gratitude" for the legislator's "immense" efforts to craft a stimulus package, but followed that with a pitch for making sure that performers were not left out of the deal. "The unique nature of our industry means rules that require beneficiaries to have had a single, long-term employer will simply leave our entire workforce behind," was their urgent message. 

Congress has passed one short-term relief bill that insured sick leave, increased food assistance and boosted emergency unemployment insurance, but the Senate is still working on a second, near-trillion-dollar coronavirus economic aid package to help affected businesses weather the economic tsunami. Mcconnell reportedly has said passage ASAP, preferably by day's end Friday (March 20), was imperative.  

But payroll tax relief, paid leave and other assistance targeted at jobs with regular hours and paychecks may never get to the entertainment community.  

The groups pointed out that many performers can't work from home. "Our home is on the road, on the studio lot or in the theater, in venues across the country that must close during the pandemic, in front of live audiences or with cast members who cannot gather," they wrote. 

"They" included Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) 

Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) SESAC, UTA, William Morris and the Writers' Guild of America.

Their members' and clients' jobs have vanished, they wrote, "along with the costly and personally devastating investments we can never recover." 

Without help from a stimulus package, with direct payments likely the most effective approach, they said, "we know that many in our community will find themselves homeless, hungry, and unable to tend to their medical needs." 

The pain will be felt not only by performers, but by "managers, producers, promoters, stagehands, drivers, and countless others," the groups told the legislators, adding that the moment calls for "the unmatched capabilities of Congress."  

Speaking on the Senate floor Friday, Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.) said the package should include payments to independent workers, including those in the 'gig' economy.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.