Austin’s unemployed entertainment workers demand Congress pass new stimulus package
AUSTIN, Texas - A large group of Austin’s entertainment workers rallied Tuesday calling on Congress to pass the HEROES Act. The HEROES Act would extend measures from the previous stimulus package and include $600 dollars of weekly unemployment assistance.
Rick Levy, President of Texas AFL-CIO has been advocating for the bill to pass for months. “The Senate has had the HEROES Act on their desks since May 15 and these folks have been doing without,” said Levy. “It’s time for John Cornyn and folks in Washington to get to work and understand that there are real peoples lives at stake.”
Senator John Cornyn has spoken out against the HEROES Act in August when the bill passed the House he said it was, “nothing more than a long list of liberal priorities.” Republicans are currently pushing for The HEALS Act.
“Senator Schumer and the Democrats refused to compromise and insisted on an unrelated wish list including tax breaks for millionaires in New York and marijuana subsidies,” said Cornyn on stalled negotiations.
Senator Cornyn has introduced The Save Our Stages Act, the bill would provide Small Business Administration grants for independent live music venue operators. The grants would provide six months of financial support venues and pay employees. The legislation has seen bipartisan support and co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate.
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Since the start of the pandemic, more than 3 million Texans have applied for unemployment benefits. The entertainment industry in Austin has been struggling. Ruby Leigh, Co-owner of Allume Live Productions said her business has received PPP assistance but it’s not enough to keep her employees or colleagues in the industry afloat.
“We claim to be the live music capital of the world,” said Leigh. “I grew up here this is my entire life and I have the city basically abandon not just the venues but the people who work there. How can you sit here and call yourself the live music capital of the world when you do not care about the music that’s in it.”
In April, the city designated 1.5 million dollars to the Austin Music Disaster Relief fund to assist venues and musicians. However, people who work behind scenes, stagehands, lighting design, audio technicians feel left in the dark.
Jennifer Crump has worked in lighting design for more than 10-years in Austin and wants to return to work. "It’s heartbreaking to me that I cannot do that anymore for the time being because it is unsafe for us to work right now. Nor is there any work available,” said Crump.
The types of jobs needed to put on a show are specialized professions. Crump was working a partial job before applying for unemployment but was furloughed because of the pandemic. Audra Hughes, a sound technician for tv and film has attempted to apply for unemployment assistance but has faced multiple issues in receiving any compensation. Hughes like many Texans who are unemployed are waiting for a stimulus package to be passed.
“That money would help me pay my mortgage and it would help me survive,” said Hughes. “Right now I am just living off of savings.”
The Senate is expected to vote on a trimmed down Coronavirus relief package this week.