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The show must go on: Save Our Stages Act funding set to expire as NYC theater scene continues to rebound

Save Our Stages Act funding set to expire
Photo by Dean Moses

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney stood beside art and culture representatives and organizations Tuesday to call for the extension of a federal funding lifeline to the arts in New York City.

The Save Our Stages Act was signed into law in December 2020 and was used to provide venues and performing art organizations that were shuttered or struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic grants to help keep the arts alive in the Big Apple.

Although New York City is bouncing back following the onslaught of the deadly virus, Broadway and thespian advocates argue that it is not quite back yet, and stage entertainers are continuing to feel the financial implications.

“What would New York be without Broadway? You might as well be in Chicago or some other big city. It’s a unique aspect of New York but COVID-19 has decimated most of the industry, which is why I was so thrilled when the Save Our Stages Act was signed into law in December 2020,” Maloney said standing in the shadow of the iconic Radio City Music Hall. “It is about time we release these funds –funds that are already there – by passing The Save Our Stages Extension Act.”

Photo by Dean Moses

Ticket sales are still not meeting pre-pandemic rates and according to the National Independent Venue Association there is about a 50% no-show rate for ticket holders (buyers who don’t attend a performance were usually only at 5%). Additionally, Broadway grosses during the week ending on May 29 increased; however, attendance rates continued to drop. 

Smaller shows like “Come from Away” saw only 63% capacity and “Girl from the North Country” garnered only 53.23% of audience attendance. 

Maloney and other elected officials believe that by passing the Save Our Stages Extension Act—which was introduced in the House of Representatives in September 2021—it would allow recipients to receive grants until March 11, 2023. 

“SVOG is the largest investment in culture ever made by our country. It helped not only performing arts venues, but small dance studios and community cultural organizations to stay alive during the pandemic. And for most live arts organizations, the recovery is not here yet. If SVOG is not extended, if the funds do not go to the hardest hit cultural sector for which it was intended, we will lose valuable cultural spaces and the economy-enlivening activity they bring,” said Lucy Sexton of New Yorkers for Arts and Culture.

The Save Our Stages has issued $1,918,124,440 in relief funds since January.  Art leaders stated that this grant extension would not cost the city more money, since there are still ample funds to disperse. It would merely extend the period in which art venues can utilize it. 

“This much needed financial relief provided a lifeline to institutions across our country, including so many here in New York City, allowing them to reopen and continue the important work of education, entertainment and creativity for which New York is so known. But now there are millions still in the fund. Still millions of dollars in the fund, which cannot be spent because of a deadline imposed by Congress. One that must be extended because arts institutions are still feeling deeply and you’ll hear from our speakers on the impact of the COVID Coronavirus pandemic,” Maloney said.

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