Rep. Peter Welch brings Save Our Stages Act to Washington

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WASHINGTON — A bill introduced by Vermont Congressman Peter Welch would provide six months of financial support for independent live music venues in the coronavirus pandemic.

"Independent live music and entertainment venues help make Vermont such a special place to live," Welch said in a statement. "Any music fan or performer knows that a livestream is just not the same as a live concert."

The Democrat introduced the bill in the Capitol on Monday. Welch said the Paycheck Protection Program and other federal aid programs do not work for live music venues that cannot reopen until the transmission of COVID-19 is stopped.

"We need to make sure they get the support they need to survive the pandemic so they are ready to host all of us at a show in the future," Welch said.

The Save Our Stages Act would narrowly define independent live venues and include the authorization of $10 billion for the Small Business Administration to run a live music venue grant program.

Keith Marks, executive director of Next Stage Arts Project in Putney, said he is hopeful the legislation passes and helps organizations such as his.

"The fact that there is a bill focusing on the lifeblood of music in our country is amazing," he said in an email. "We've known that venues are drivers of economic impact. We see that in Putney. People come to Putney, they eat dinner at The Gleanery, they buy supplies from The General Store, the Coop, they fill up gas, etc. Arts organizations, regardless of their medium of focus, are community centers."

Robin Johnson, manager of The Stone Church, said his business is "extremely grateful" to Welch.

"This legislation provides the lifeline needed to keep independent venues alive and assure the return of a vibrant live entertainment economy once venues like the Stone Church are able to safely reopen."

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