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Hartford arts venues applaud $15 billion aid package in stimulus


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    HARTFORD, Conn. (Hartford Business Journal) — Representatives of Hartford’s theater and arts industries gathered at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center this morning to celebrate the “welcome if delayed” approval of the Save Our Stages (SOS) relief package.

“Keeping Connecticut employed and keeping our institutions whole so that we can wait for better days is so important right now,” said Tom Loughman, director and CEO of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

President Trump’s late-night signature approved a stimulus package that sets aside $15 billion for arts venues as part of $285 billion in new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Unlike the previous round of PPP aid, Save Our Stages funds will come in the form of grants, not loans, and will be capped at $10 million per venue, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said at Monday’s event. The new round of PPP loans to non-arts small businesses, by contrast, are capped at $2 million and have new restrictions.

All types of arts venues with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for SOS funds, which will be distributed nationally on a merit basis, as opposed to state-specific allocations. The Small Business Administration is currently preparing rules for the grants and will begin accepting applications as soon as the rules are ready, Blumenthal said. “The whole point of the program is getting the money out there,” he said.

Bushnell President David Fay played a key role in getting Senate support for SOS, Blumenthal said. Fay spoke to the Senate Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection earlier this month about the economic devastation in downtown Hartford due to pandemic closure of theaters and other venues.

“I have fought very hard…I fought like the devil” for the SOS funding, Blumenthal said, adding that Trump’s signature on the stimulus package was “welcome if delayed.” The unemployed and others in desperate need of help due to the pandemic’s impact will suffer because the president vacillated on signing, he added.

Even $285 billion is far from enough to help the economy recover, Blumenthal said. “It is a downpayment for future aid,” he said. “A more robust program is vitally needed.”

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