Due to the severity of the pandemic, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, has joined members of Congress in calling for support for live entertainment venues whose revenue relies on large gatherings.
On June 3, Gonzalez announced his involvement in the bipartisan effort, while addressing local venues such as Cine El Rey.
“Due to this pandemic, many of our beloved entertainment venues like Cine El Rey have been hard hit,” Gonzalez said in the news release. “McAllen and South Texas have a diverse music scene and cultural history that, without action, may detrimentally impact many small businesses, event workers, and rising musicians and stars. I gladly join my colleagues to support this important issue that will greatly impact our community.”
Joining Gonzalez are fellow Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, Roger Williams and Dan Crenshaw, to name a few.
The letter — which Gonzalez said already has close to 100 signatures from members of Congress — argues live entertainment venues “are likely to be among the last to reopen.”
“What we’re asking is that in this next round of stimulus money that we target live music venues and entertainment venues because I think they’ve been hit really hard,” the U.S. House representative said. “They haven’t really been able to open.”
In addition to capacity limitations and other restrictions, the letter also highlights because the loan programs put in place to support businesses during the pandemic barely provides any support for live entertainment venues, they argue: “[The] industry is not going to make it without [their] help.”
In South Texas, venues like Cine El Rey and Yerberia Cultura were faced with postponed shows and closures to avoid large gatherings.
“When you see problems as ‘the big picture,’ it’s easy to assume that only making big bold strokes is the only way to help paint the picture,” Cine El Rey owner Bert Guerra said. “However, once you magnify the problem, you will see venues like Cine El Rey and how easy we can get lost when the help we really need must come from a finer brush.”
More than a month ago, Guerra took to the venue’s Facebook page to ask their fans for monetary donations; Guerra was denied from the Small Business Loan program because Cine El Rey didn’t meet the criteria.
“We are part of a large independent network that is currently broken due to COVID-19 restrictions,” Guerra said. “Unfortunately, we can’t just flip a switch and everything will be OK. It’s going to take some time to build that network back up and obviously it’s going to take money.”
While he knows all businesses need aid, Gonzalez argues live entertainment venues were hit the hardest due to their reliance on events with large gatherings. With concerts and live shows being postponed or cancelled, the market for venues cannot restart as quickly as other businesses.
“We’re trying to accommodate [live venues] in CARES and PPP in the next round of funding to make sure that they qualify under the rules that are required,” Gonzalez said. “So, we’re trying to tweak the language on this next round to assure that they’re in front of the lines to be able to apply for this funding.”
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act provides economic assistance for workers, families, and small businesses, in addition to preserving jobs for industries. Established by the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program PPP gives businesses funding employees’ salaries eight weeks to expense a percentage of those annual salaries to be forgiven.
“There’s Cine El Rey and similar venues here in our district and across the country that have been impacted and we need to help them.” the representative said. “We’re working very hard to try to get them the funding assistance they need.”
When asked about the letter, Guerra finds the news promising as he acknowledged Gonzalez’s past record of successfully passing bipartisan bills, “not just for [Cine El Rey] but for the thousands of other independent venues around America who fell through the cracks under the current COVID-19 guidelines for assistance.”
“It’s important that they know we understand and we’re taking that message to Washington,” Gonzalez answered when asked what he’d tell business owners like Guerra. “It’s a bipartisan effort on both sides of the aisle.”