Entertainment industry awaits pandemic aid – WOWT

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – More help is on the way for the entertainment industry. The latest COVID-19 relief bill includes the Save Our Stages Act, which would send federal aid to concert halls and other entertainment venues, many which faced shutdowns in 2020.

The Jewell Omaha went out on a high note in 2020, but not after some adversity. It had to furlough employees, condense its hours, and acquire a PPP loan to stay afloat. But the jazz club welcomed 2021 with a couple dozen guests in a club that’s been short on revenue and live acts in the pandemic.

“It’s kind of a weird position to be in,” CEO Brian McKenna said. “You want people to show up at the same time you don’t want to hurt anyone either you know so it’s a very challenging thing to reopen during a pandemic.”

McKenna’s club endured a four-month shutdown. It reopened in July and has been able to host crowds up to 50 percent of its capacity, but McKenna says that federal aid can’t come soon enough.

“I absolutely need it,” he said. “We’re working closely with First National Bank of Omaha and as soon as they get word that it’s been approved and things are in motion, we certainly could use it.”

Lack of attendance, salaries for staff and musicians are at the top of McKenna’s mind.

The National Independent Venue Association has been pushing Congress to pass the Save Our Stages Act, which is included in the $900 billion dollar COVID-19 relief package.

The Small Business Administration is divvying out funding—meaning it could still take weeks until it reaches the hands of entertainment business like The Jewell.

“There’s certain regulations and rules to follow and we’re all waiting to see what these rules are going to be,” McKenna said.

Eligible live entertainment venues, organizations and museums could receive some of the $15 billion dedicated to the industry. For McKenna’s two-year-old venue, it could be the difference between staying alive or shutting down once again.

“After last night, when you bring people together and they hear some music and just relax for a couple hours, that’s the joy of why I’m doing this.”

When the Small Business Administration sets parameters on funding, event operators can apply for grants up to $10 million.

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