Standing at the Bug Jar in Downtown Rochester, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced today that "help is on the way" to the Finger Lakes region as he detailed specifics from the American Rescue Plan Act he just led to passage in the U.S. Senate.
Using the Bug Jar as a backdrop, Schumer explained that even more for New York’s live independent venues which are eligible for their own, DIRECT, federal pandemic relief, thanks to a provision he championed.
Save Our Stages
The Save Our Stages provision included an additional $1.25 billion for independent live venues, performing arts organizations, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions and included a critical fix that allows venues to access a PPP loan and a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, deducting the PPP loan amount from the grant amount. Schumer said the additional funding and technical fix would be a lifeline for New York’s independent venues, hard-hit by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, a venue had to choose between getting a PPP loan or a Save Our Stages grant.
Just last week, SBA announced that the Save Our Stages program will open to applications on April 8th after Schumer’s continued press to implement the program. SBA also released an updated PPP application that now allows venues to apply for a PPP loan as well as a Save Our Stages grant, as Schumer intended with the fix included in the recent COVID-19 bill.
“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,” Senator Schumer said.
“That is why I made sure this relief bill included a swan song – additional reliefs dollars to boost the Save Our Stages legislation and a critical technical fix to allow venues to access PPP and flexible grant support. Getting federal dollars into the hands of struggling small businesses, like independent venues in the Finger Lakes, not only makes sense, but it’s the curtain call needed to keep small businesses like the Bug Jar going.”
Schumer said that live venues remain one of the hardest hit industries as the state carefully reopens, and dedicated assistance from the American Rescue Plan will save many venues from permanently shutting their doors to the public. It is estimated that by the end of 2020 live venues across the country lost $9 billion in ticket sales alone.
The senator said the 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.
The December package included $15 billion to create the Save Our Stages program after Schumer’s tireless efforts to pass it into law. The program, which will be overseen by the Small Business Administration, 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.
To ensure the hardest hit of eligible applicants receive assistance, there are two priority application periods. The first 14 days, only eligible entities that have lost more than 90 percent 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.
American Rescue Plan's Impact on New York
Additionally, Schumer detailed the American Rescue Plan’s tentative impact to New York as more than $100 billion dollars. The deal includes the additional round of direct stimulus checks for tens of thousands of Finger Lakes residents, on top of aid to help schools safely reopen, vaccine distribution, critical pension relief, an expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, new rental assistance, agriculture and nutrition assistance, direct local fiscal relief to revive the local economy and help solve the Finger Lakes’ budget woes, all of which adds up to essential relief for countless families, workers, restaurants, more independent live venues and small businesses across the state.
Schumer also highlighted that researchers have said that the American Rescue Plan will cut the child poverty rate in half, which is especially important for Rochester as the city ranks the highest for child poverty among cities of a comparable size, with 48 percent of children living below the poverty line.
- Makes the Child Tax Credit (CTC) fully refundable and increases the credit amount from $2,000 to $3,000 per child age 6 to 17 (and $3,600 per child below the age of 6). An estimated 3.56 million children across New York will benefit from this expanded tax credit, and it will lift 680,000 children in the state above or closer to the poverty line. It is estimated that New York families will receive $7.03 billion in relief from the enhanced CTC.
- Strengthens the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers, many of whom are in lower-paid but essential jobs on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic response, benefitting 910,000 of these workers in New York. It is estimated that New York families will receive over $786 million will receive in relief from the enhanced ETIC.
Money for the Finger Lakes Region
Sends $22 million in direct payments of $1,400 to over 9 million New Yorkers. That includes approximately $1.4 billion in direct payments for more than an estimated 556,000 households in the Finger Lakes Region: An estimated 344,000 households in Monroe County will receive approximately a total of $858 million; an estimated 41,500 households in Wayne County will receive approximately a total of $104 million; an estimated 51,000 households in Ontario County will receive about a total of $127 million; an estimated 29,000 households in Livingston County will receive approximately a total of $72 million; an estimated 18,500 households in Orleans County will receive approximately a total of $46 million; an estimated 26,500 households in Genesee County will receive approximately a total of $66 million; an estimated 18,000 households in Wyoming County will receive approximately a total of $46 million; an estimated 16,000 households in Seneca County will receive approximately a total of $39 million; and an estimated 11,500 households in Yates County will receive approximately a total of $29 million.
As part of the deal, more than $23.8 billion in state and local aid will be going to New York, with more than $566.31 million going directly to the Finger Lakes Region. New York State government will receive over $12 billion, solving the state’s budget woes.
With 50 percent of Rochester’s rental units currently occupied by tenants spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, Schumer explained that rental assistance, included in the American Rescue Plan, is also a necessary tool of fighting poverty.
This funding is a win-win allowing residents to cover past-due rent and future rent payments while maintaining rental streams for property owners needed to maintain this housing. Without this federal aid, too many families would be unable to make payments, through no fault of their own, and be faced with the prospect of being thrown out of their homes in the middle of a pandemic.
EPPI 2.0 builds and improves upon the success of EPPI 1.0, which was launched last summer thanks to funding Schumer secured in the CARES Act. Changes in the second round of the program include less cumbersome eligibility guidelines to qualify for rent relief; and the ability of landlords to apply for relief on behalf of their tenants with their consent.
Funding for Education
The American Rescue Plan also includes $9 billion for New York’s K-12 schools – these flexible funds will support school districts in reopening safely for in-person instruction and addressing the many needs that students are facing due to the pandemic. Finger Lakes school districts will receive $404.5 million in total in K-12 support funds.
New York’s Colleges and Universities will also receive $2.6B from the American Rescue Plan, half of which must be distributed to students in the form of financial aid awards to address hardships caused by COVID-19. Finger Lakes colleges will receive $163.8 million in total.
Funding for Transit
Schumer was able to secure more than $7 billion in transit funding for New York, with $45.5 million going toward the Rochester Transit Services (RTS), $12,061,336 for Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Airport, and $219,000 for other Finger Lakes airports.
Multiemployer Pension Plan Relief
The legislation also delivers critical relief for suffering multiemployer pension plans – which have experienced significant additional challenges as a result of this economic crisis – without cutting benefits retirees have earned. 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.
“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 Finger Lakes residents still need real help to get through this.”