ITHACA, N.Y. –– As many Americans continue to receive stimulus payments as a result of the “American Rescue Plan,” otherwise known as the latest COVID-19 Stimulus Package, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stopped in Ithaca to highlight how the legislation has already benefited Southern Tier families along with live independent venues including movie theaters, concert stages and playhouses in the wake of the economic fallout as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Independent venues, like theaters, concert halls, and cinemas, are the beating heart of New York’s cultural life and a driving force in the Upstate economy. These local businesses were among the first to shut down at the start of the pandemic, are struggling to stay afloat, and will be among the last to fully reopen, costing jobs and leaving a giant hole in the fabric of our communities,” Schumer said. “Getting federal dollars into the hands of struggling small businesses, like independent venues in the Southern Tier, not only makes sense, but it’s the curtain call needed to keep small businesses like Cinemapolis and the Hangar Theatre going and keeping their workers on the job.”
Schumer said that live venues remain one of the hardest-hit industries as the state carefully reopens, and that dedicated assistance from the American Rescue Plan “will save many venues from permanently shutting their doors to the public.” In a press release, the senator’s office estimates that by the end of 2020 live venues across the country lost $9 billion in ticket sales alone. The senator added that, “federal assistance was imperative because independent venues not only drive economic activity within communities through restaurants, hotels, taxis and other transportation and retail establishments, but live events provide 75 percent of all artists’ income.”
To combat this, the stimulus package passed in December includes $15 billion to create the “Save Our Stages” program, which will be overseen by the Small Business Administration and will provide assistance to independent live venue operators, promoters, producers, talent representatives, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. Grant amounts equal to 45 percent of gross revenue in 2019 for the venue, up to $10 million, can be used for various costs, including payroll, rent, utilities, mortgage obligations, payments to contractors, regular maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, PPE procurement, and capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines.
“By helping support independent movie theaters, live cultural venues, restaurants –– these are the engines that will make people return to our downtown and spend money and re-enliven the community’s economy,” said Brett Bossard, executive director of Cinemapolis.
To ensure the hardest hit applicants receive assistance, there are two priority application periods. For the first 14 days, only eligible entities that have lost more than 90% of gross revenue can apply. The next 14 days, only eligible entities that have lost more than 70 percent can apply. A reserve of 20 percent of overall appropriated funds, $3 billion out of the $15 billion provided, will remain available for all other eligible entities to apply for after 28 days. There is a $2 billion set-aside of funds for eligible entities with 50 or fewer employees to ensure smaller applicants are not left out.
RJ Lavine, director of Managing Director at the Hangar Theatre added that independent venues are, “a lot more” than economic drivers.
“A lot of these organizations also have educational programs –– we’re in the schools, we provide early workforce training to local youth…it’s so much more than just coming to see a show,” Lavine said. “We can’t take the arts for granted.”
Find out more about the application process through the Small Business Administration here.
Additionally, Schumer described the American Rescue Plan’s impact on residents of Ithaca and Tompkins County through the $1,400 direct stimulus checks which tens of thousands of Southern Tier residents have already begun to receive. Schumer said Monday that approximately $656 million in direct payments has been allotted to go to more than an estimated 260,000 households in the Southern Tier. An estimated 47,000 households in Tompkins County will receive approximately $117 million, an estimated 38,000 households in Chemung County will receive approximately $95 million, an estimated 22,000 households in Tioga County will receive $55 million, and an estimated 12,000 households in Broome County will receive $31 million.
To highlight what the stimulus check has already done for the community, Ithaca College employee Latishia Abdellatif, a single mother of two kids working full-time, described how the money has been the difference between keeping the lights on at home and being in the dark.
“I am being rescued by this right now,” Abdellatif said. “I have had to make some tough choices, between rent, my car bill, my NYSEG bill…I work every day and I work really hard but I was so affected by this pandemic, and to know that I am being rescued by this bill right now means so much…me and my kids are sleeping better at night.”
Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature Leslyn McBean-Clairborne also added that Abdellatif’s struggle is not all too uncommon as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I know all too well how we chip in to help these families survive,” McBean-Clairborne said.
Schumer also highlighted several other tenets of the American Rescue Plan aimed at helping struggling Americans including an expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC), enhancing the Earned Income Tax Credit to benefit childless workers and rental and mortgage assistance.
He explained Monday that the CTC, which is “fully refundable,” has increased under the new plan from $2,000 to $3,000 per child age 6 to 17 (and $3,600 per child below the age of 6) –– all in all doling out more than seven billion dollars to New York families. The EITC expansion under the new legislation aims to benefit childless workers, “by raising the maximum EITC for workers without children from roughly $540 to roughly $1,500, and the income cap for these adults to qualify from about $16,000 to at least $21,000. It also expands the age range of eligible workers without children to include younger adults aged 19-24 (excluding students under 24 who are attending school at least part-time), as well as people aged 65 and over,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Schumer says that New Yorkers are set to receive over $786 million from enhanced ETIC.
For those with pensions, the bill also includes relief for multiemployer pension plans which have experienced significant additional challenges as a result of this economic crisis. An infusion of federal money will ensure benefits retirees have earned will not be cit. In New York State alone, there are more than 1.3 million participants in multiemployer pension plans, and around 624,600 New Yorkers are participants in plans that are expected to receive relief directly through this legislation.
Direct aid will be going to local governments as well –– as part of the deal, $17.02 million in aid is going to the City of Ithaca and over $19.82 million for Tompkins County. Other Southern Tier counties like Broome County are estimated to receive nearly $36.94 million and Chemung County at $16.19 million. New York State government will receive over $12 billion.
“The American Rescue Plan helped the City of Ithaca when we needed it most,” said Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The other funding included in the American Rescue Plan is:
- $9 Billion for New York’s K-12 Schools (Southern Tier school districts will receive $227,876,000 in total in K-12 support funds.)
- $2.6 Billion for New York’s Colleges and Universities half of which must be distributed to students in the form of financial aid awards to address hardships caused by COVID-19. Southern Tier colleges will receive $161,998,000 in total.
- $7 Billion in transit funding for New York, with $11.6 million going towards the Southern Tier’s transit agencies and $5,891,093 for Southern Tier airports.
- $28.6 Billion to support restaurants through grant funding. It is unclear how much of that will go directly to the Southern Tier.
- Over $10 Billion nationally to support agriculture, though it’s unclear how much local farmers will get.
“As Majority Leader, I fought hard to ensure this deal sent real relief to the tune of $100 billion to New York for workers, families, farmers, healthcare, small businesses, including our hard-hit industries like restaurants, and communities in Ithaca—the things we need to support in order to weather this crisis and then work to recover,” Schumer said. “This marks the second biggest stimulus bill in the nation’s history—second to the CARES Act—and it comes just in time, because Southern Tier residents still need real help to get through this.”