Economic Disaster Relief for the Live Events Industry
Economic Disaster Relief for the Live Events Industry
* FOR URGENT CONSIDERATION *
March 23, 2020
To: Governor Kate Brown, House Speaker Tina Kotek, Senate President Peter Courtney, Oregon Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response
From: Small Business Owners, Managers and Employees, Entrepreneurs, and Contractors in the Live Event Service Industries.
We humbly ask you to consider our plight, right here in Oregon, as the outbreak of COVID-19 is in the process of completely devastated our businesses. Ours was the very first industry to be mandated to shut itself down, even before our friends and colleagues in the Restaurant industry had to do the same. We watched as our leaders first limited events to 250 people, then 50, and now 10. We absolutely understand the reasoning behind this, and completely support and will comply with the guidance of our governments, for the safety of our society.
Now though, we are suffering greatly as a result of this shut down. Most of us have seen 90 to 100% of our booked or almost-booked business for March and April of 2020 either cancel or postpone well into the future (an entire year’s postponement is quite common). And as of this date, May 2020 bookings are cancelling a week at a time for most of us, and we have no clear end in sight for this…with fears mounting that this reality could push well into or even through our summer seasons. This means that we are at or very close to a zero-revenue footprint. Even when “business comes back,” there are myriad challenges that we will have to face: Rehiring staff or onboarding new personnel. Event (“work”) schedules that aren’t completely full, even though we may then be in what traditionally is our “busy” season. And of course, most of us will, without assistance from our leaders, be in crippling debt. And this is to say nothing of those who have already or will go out of business completely, before getting a chance to recover.
We all still have to pay our rents, loan payments, insurance bills. We may have provisions and food inventory left to spoil, vehicles leases due, and most importantly…most of us also have employees to pay. People we’ve likely invested greatly in, and rely on, and must now send to the unemployment line.
By definition, we are “behind the scenes” tradespeople. Perhaps as an ironic result of this, we are now seeing our shared plights resulting from this mandated industry-wide shut down go largely unnoticed. But we are nonetheless real…We are small businesses employing from 2 to 100 people, as well as many independent contractors. We are in Portland, Salem, and Eugene. Medford and Ashland. Bend and Central Oregon. We are truly state-wide. We serve events from small social gatherings (weddings and other life celebrations), to fundraisers and galas, to corporate events, conferences, and tradeshows. To give you an idea of the breadth and variety of our number, we are:
• Event Venues of all types
• Rental Companies (tables and chairs, tents, linens, décor, etc)
• Audio Visual Companies (Video, Lighting, Sound)
• Caterers, Beverage Vendors, Bakers, and other specialty food and beverage providers
• Event and Meeting Planners, Designers, Producers, Wedding Coordinators,and Destination Managers
• Event Photographers and Videographers
• Backstage Laborers and Labor Providers, Volunteer Coordinators
• DJs, Auctioneers, Presenters, Officiants, and Entertainers
• Event Decorators, Costumers, Florists, Graphic Artists and Printers, Hair and Makeup Artists
• Directors, Writers, Artists, Brand Ambassadors, and other Content Managers or Creators
• Many Specialty Wedding Professionals
• Many misc other providers such as Donation Managers, Valet Companies, Portable Restrooms, Event Security, and etc
For all of these, we include both business owners as well as employees that are severely impacted…as well as independent contractors in our industry, which are many.
To add to this number of trades, please also consider that alongside these tradespeople, there is the entire arts and entertainment community…theatres and concert venues, actors and musicians, agents and management, stagehands and technicians. These Oregonians are finding themselves in precisely the same boat.
As you can guess, without immediate assistance, our industry and our workforce will be irreparably damaged, the outfall from which will create a ripple effect through our state’s economy, and beyond.
Our most urgent needs are:
Legislative Action to Close the Virus Exclusion in Business Interruption Insurance:
“Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, rule or regulation to the contrary, every policy of insurance insuring against loss or damage to property, which includes the loss of use and occupancy and business interruption in force in this State on the effective date of this act, shall be construed to include among the covered perils under that policy, coverage for business interruption due to global virus transmission or pandemic.”
Over the past decade, insurance agencies have become more cautious about exposure. As a result, Business Interruption Policies now include specific virus exclusions, some of which identify the COVID-19 specifically.
A bill is needed to force Business Interruption insurers to provide coverage for this crisis with an effective date of March 16, 2020. This is not unprecedented -- the New Jersey legislature is advancing a bill of t his nature.
Financial Relief Measures:
As small business owners, we are already carrying a significant debt burden. In order to continue operating after this crisis, we need creative, immediate action to infuse financial resources into our community. We have identified the following needs and suggestions and are eager to be included in Task Force and Special Committee conversations:
• Provide employers with a 60-day extension of time to file their state payroll reports and/or deposit state payroll taxes without penalty or interest.
Suspend payroll tax and required retirement account contributions.
• Create a grant program providing funds for businesses with fewer than 100 employees who have seen sales decreases, either to date or in verifiable forecasting, of 50 percent or more in order to help mitigate losses in profit.
• Create a grant program for companies with fewer than 100 employees to provide financial assistance specifically to meet the needs of employer-sponsored health care coverage for employees.
• Provide commercial rent relief. Mandate that no commercial rent, lease payments, or contract payments be required during the duration of the administrative closure.
• Place a moratorium on commercial evictions after March 15, 2020 for the duration of the administrative action.
• Defer all city and state business taxes for Small Businesses. For businesses with up to $7M in gross receipts, defer payment of quarterly business taxes due April 30, 2020, nine months to February 2021 with no interest or penalties.
• Defer all city and state business licensing fees for six months from due date, with no interest or penalties.
• Establish a task force to convene large banks, financial associations, utilities, telecoms, and major employers to identify opportunities to provide relief such as debt and late penalty forgiveness, deferring bills, providing low-interest loans, and waiving fees for companies and workers negatively impacted by COVID-19. Any forbearance offered must include a guarantee that no negative credit rating impact will be placed on the borrower/business.
• Create a grant program for 1099 Freelance Laborers, Artists and Sole Proprietors commensurate to unemployment insurance and benefits provided to W2 laid off employees in the Events Industry by the State and Federal Government.
We ask that you take action now. Our industries and our state have overcome adversity before, and if we are armed with the right tools, we can do it again. Without such tools, we will perish.