The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package on Friday morning (March 27), complete with several provisions that will help music workers stay afloat. President Donald Trump swiftly signed the bill into law on Friday afternoon.
The Democrat-controlled House approved the measure, which is intended to salvage the economy and healthcare system, by a voice vote. It is the largest economic relief bill in the nation’s history.
Titled the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, it will provide payments of up to $1,200 each to millions of Americans, and roll out a new pandemic unemployment assistance program for self-employed workers who are out of work due to the coronavirus crisis, including countless music professionals. Individual, self-employed music makers will also be eligible for loans and grants from the bill’s $350 billion small-business portion, including a special $10,000 grant that does not have to be repaid.
The bill also establishes a $75 million supplemental fund for the National Endowment for the Arts, with 60% of funds dedicated to direct grants for non-profit organizations and other eligible recipients to respond to the coronavirus. The remaining 40% of funds will go toward state and regional arts councils.
Music industry leaders are applauding the legislation, which builds on last week’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act — a bill that left many self-employed workers out of unemployment benefits and other provisions.
“The Recording Academy thanks the Congressional leaders who worked with the music community to craft a bill that allows the music to play on,” said Recording Academy interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. “In navigating this unprecedented crisis, all music industry professionals across the U.S., many of whom rely on multiple gigs for their livelihood, can be grateful that they are included in this extraordinary effort to help Americans. We will now turn our attention to helping music makers and others who make a living in our industry navigate the process of getting the financial assistance they need while anticipating the day when they can return to providing the soundtrack to our nation, which we’ll all need when this crisis is over.”
Said RIAA chairman/CEO Mitch Glazier: “We applaud Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Senate leaders and the Administration for their hard work to pass this legislation, which includes direct financial aid to Americans in need, including musicians who face unique circumstances during this national emergency.
“We are grateful that this bill contains access to expanded unemployment insurance and small business loans, both of which will ensure that hundreds of thousands of musicians’ families across the country can continue to pay their bills, put food on the table, and care for their children during this public health and economic crisis,” Glazier continued. “We applaud the federal government in taking this step to care for the millions of people in our country who are in such desperate need.”
SoundExchange president/CEO Michael Huppe noted that “In these difficult times, so many people turn to music for help getting through. And yet, because of the widespread cancellation of festivals, concerts and public gatherings of all types, this national crisis has been especially devastating for music creators. I’m proud of our industry’s joint efforts to ensure that the financial assistance made available under the CARES Act reaches everyone in the music community. Because we spoke as one, our voices were heard louder than ever.”
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said, “This emergency stimulus package contains some key elements that will apply to our members, including higher weekly unemployment benefits, extended weeks of unemployment benefits, a one-time check for every American and their children under a certain annual income, and a special Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for those who are not eligible for unemployment currently, such as independent contractors.”
ASCAP president/chairman Paul Williams added: ““We are reminded in difficult times like these how music unites us, and we are thankful that all sides have joined in solidarity to help everyone affected by this crisis, particularly our community of songwriters and composers who bring so much joy to the world. ASCAP will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that American music creators can weather this storm and continue sharing their incredible talents with the world.”
And ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews echoed that statement, saying, “We are grateful that support is coming for millions of American songwriters and music creators whose lives and livelihoods have been upended by this crisis. In particular, music creators who are self-employed and those who own or work for small businesses will now receive emergency assistance, thanks to the music community rallying together to draw attention to their needs. As the entire music industry faces an uncertain future, ASCAP stands ready to do our part to help music creators endure these difficult times.”
SESAC chairman/CEO John Josephson said that “it is our collective responsibility to protect our music creators” amid the pandemic. “They have not only remained committed to their craft of making music during this unprecedented time but have also provided a sense of unity, connection and passion, which will only strengthen our nation in the days to come,” he explained. The bill “is critical to recharge the economy while providing relief to so many American businesses and workers, and we’re thrilled that certain provisions will include relief for many music professionals who are independent contractors, small business owners or self-employed.”
BMI president/CEO Mike O’Neill specifically thanked “Senator Blackburn, Representative Deutch, Representative Roby, Majority Leader Hoyer and the many music organizations involved in this effort, for their steadfast dedication to ensuring the needs of America’s music creators were addressed in this critical Act,” he said. “We applaud Congress for swift action on this important legislation and look forward to President Trump signing so that this assistance can begin flowing to all those in the music industry, and beyond, who desperately need it.”
Update 9:30 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that President Donald Trump signed the bill into law following its passage in the House of Representatives.