Actors’ Equity Calls For Government Relief For Theater Workers In Wake Of Local Bans On Mass Gatherings

Actors’ Equity Association president Kate Shindle is calling on Congress and local governments to step up with economic relief for live-theater workers in the wake of a growing number localities placing limits on public gatherings because of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a halt to all public gatherings of more than 250 in three of the state’s hardest-hit counties. Officials in Californian’s Santa Clara County and in Washington D.C. also are banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people starting today.

Here is the full statement from Actors’ Equity:

Given the decision from Gov. Inslee – and with further closures sure to be imminent – we must focus on how we can protect the workers who will be displaced,” Shindle said. “Equity members are dedicated professionals who earn their health care and pensions one week of work at a time. Limiting public gatherings also means the prospect of lost income, health insurance and retirement savings – to say nothing of the financial crisis those workers will face if their workplace closes down, due to a pandemic, right before they qualify for coverage.

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Now is the time for Congress and local governments to put workers first with a strong economic relief package to ensure that everyone who works in the arts and entertainment sector has access to health care and unemployment benefits. Payroll tax cuts won’t help those whose theaters are now dark. For every middle-class actor you see onstage, there are dozens more working behind the scenes and in an administrative capacity.

Decisions made now will impact many arts organizations and the communities they serve for months to come. Sustaining our entertainment sector and the workers who power it is essential to the stability of communities across the country; Study after study has shown that live performing arts generate a huge return on investment in local economies. Nonprofit theater attendees generate an additional $31 in economic activity per person, per show.

We must act now. Not only to protect public health, but with arts funding at all levels. This will provide arts employers the resources they need to quickly recover and reopen when appropriate. It is a strategy that ensures these organizations can immediately resume generating the economic halo effect that boosts local communities large and small.

Previously, Brandon Lorenz, the union’s national director of communications, said: “Nothing is more important than ensuring everyone is safe at work, and the best way to remain safe in the workplace is to focus on the facts and not fear. We have shared guidance with staff, posted resources for members and are having the appropriate internal conversations about maintaining business continuity if an outbreak becomes more severe. We have also initiated conversations with major Equity employers and other labor leaders around maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. We will continue to monitor the situation, seek guidance and best practices from the appropriate health authorities and share additional information as warranted.”

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