Shaheen highlights need for emergency COVID relief for NH entertainment venues

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Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, speaks to staff of independent entertainment venues from throughout New Hampshire at the Bank of NH stage on the challenges they face amid COVID-19. Audio of the event can be found here.

MANCHESTER, NH – During a visit to the Bank of New Hampshire Stage in Concord Monday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) highlighted the need to include emergency support for Granite State independent entertainment venues in upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation.

The live entertainment industry has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Independent entertainment venues like the Capitol Center for the Arts, which operates the Bank of New Hampshire Stage, and others across New Hampshire have been among the worst-hit businesses, suffering devastating financial losses. Closures impact owners and employees directly, as well as indirectly affecting contractors, suppliers and business partners that support the live entertainment industry. During her visit, Shaheen met with staff of independent venues from across the state and heard more about the challenges they face in the present environment.

“New Hampshire’s independent entertainment venues enrich our communities while driving economic growth and job creation. However, these venues have been some of the hardest-hit businesses during the pandemic and need help now to ensure they can keep their doors open,” said Shaheen. “That’s why I’m fighting to include legislation to provide independent entertainment venues with the help they need to weather and recover from this crisis in any upcoming COVID-19 relief package.”

Shaheen also underscored her efforts to provide relief to this important sector of the state’s economy. Shaheen is a co-sponsor of the Save Our Stages Act, bipartisan legislation that would authorize the Small Business Administration to provide grants for businesses – including independent and live performance venues – to help offset their lost revenues due to COVID-19 related closures. Shaheen also supports the Entertainments New Credit Opportunity for Relief and Economic Sustainability (ENCORES) Act, which would create a new tax credit for live entertainment venues with fewer than 500 employees to help cover the cost of refunded tickets for shows that were canceled due to the pandemic. Shaheen also supported the inclusion of $75 million in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for the National Endowment for the Arts, which has helped support independent venues like theatres.

Earlier, Shaheen hosted a conference call with Granite State school administrators and community partners amid her successful effort to extend waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that have allowed school meals to be provided to vulnerable children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal school meals programs, including the National School Lunch Program, serve more than 20 million children from low-income families each day across the nation, including in New Hampshire. The first COVID-19 package that was passed by Congress and signed into law provided the USDA with flexibilities and waivers for school meal programs that allowed schools to continue to distribute meals to students even as they were closed amid the public health emergency. However, some of these waivers were due to expire at the beginning of this new school year. Following Shaheen’s calls, USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue today announced that the Department will extend these waivers through December 31, 2020, ensuring children will have access to needed meals into the coming school year. During the call, Shaheen heard more from participants on how these waivers have allowed vulnerable Granite State children to access the nutrition they need to stay healthy amid the pandemic.

To listen to the audio from the call, click here.

“Food insecurity is a serious problem in New Hampshire communities, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. For some children, schools are their most reliable source for food and nutrition,” said Shaheen. “I’m glad the administration heeded our calls to extend these waivers. On the call with administrators and community partners today, they echoed the concerns I’ve heard from so many: that working families are under tremendous strain and our schools play an important role in helping them weather this storm. I’ll continue to push leaders in Congress to get a bipartisan agreement that puts our kids and families first.”

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