Rep. Cohen Co-Sponsors Raft of Bills for Restaurant, Live Music Relief

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) joined a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers last week to co-sponsor a $10 billion bill to help independent entertainment venues stay afloat during the pandemic.

The Save Our Stages (SOS) Act has broad support from congressional leaders, particularly those from districts or states dependent on live music for tourism, like Memphis and Tennessee. Lawmakers fanned out at live venues across the country earlier this week to push the bill.

The Senate version of the SOS Act would allow the Small Business Administration to make grants of up to $12 million to an eligible operator, promoter, producer, or talent representative to be used for cost incurred between March 1st and December 31, 2020. Another grant of up to $6 million could be used for costs incurred through June 30, 2021.

Last week, Cohen also pushed a raft of bills he’s co-sponsored for COVID-19 relief. The RESTART Act would extend the Paycheck Protection Program. The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act would establish a $120 billion grant program for relief to restaurants through 2020.

The Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Acts would allow those who earn a mix of paychecks from companies and from independent work (think musicians, here) to have access to the unemployment assistance provided in the CARES Act.

“Most musicians are facing unprecedented job loss with no end in sight,” said American Federation of Musicians president Ray Hair in a statement. “It is vital that musicians and others who have both W-2 and 1099 income are able to receive full unemployment benefits.”

Cohen said not being able to share meals and listen to live music “is having a dire impact on those who rely on these industries for their livelihoods.”

“As important as the music industry is to Tennessee, I’m surprised these measures have so far found no support from our Congressional delegation except from [Rep. Jim Cooper] and me,” Cohen said in a statement. “I hope calling attention to this crisis will result in some relief.

“Too many small restaurants are suffering greatly and are in danger of closing permanently. This will affect not just diners in Memphis and Nashville but the whole tourist industry.”