California's 2021–2022 state budget, signed earlier this week by Governor Gavin Newsom, includes $50 million in immediate funding to help struggling small theatres as they emerge from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding, according to The New York Times, will help theatres with 99 seats or less, many of which remain closed due to the ongoing pandemic.
In addition to lost revenue, the theatres are also facing increased costs following the passing of the gig worker law, which was enacted in 2020 to help Uber and other drivers but will also affect contract workers employed at small theatres. Under the new legislation, the venues will have to pay employees the minimum wage (soon to reach $15 in California) while also covering workers' compensation, payroll taxes, and unemployment costs.
Emmanuel Deleage, executive director of Casa 0101 Theater, said in a statement, “This is an important first step that will help companies like Casa 0101 as we begin our re-opening efforts coming out of the pandemic. Community theatres do more than present plays. We provide access to the arts to underserved communities and partner with other non-profits to use the arts in educational settings."
State Senator Susan Rubio is also behind another piece of legislation, still being negotiated, that would create a state-run agency that would handle the administrative costs for the payroll portion of the gig law.
“Small nonprofit performing arts companies have historically been undervalued and under funded despite their contributions to the economic growth, social well-being and cultural vitality of the local communities they serve,” Senator Rubio stated. “As a public school teacher and young performer in local theatre in East Los Angeles, I know how critical exposure to art is for our young people. These organizations are culturally rooted and are considered the onramp and incubator for new works and opportunities for emerging performers and people entering the creative performing arts industries. This funding will help preserve job opportunities for performers and people in the performing arts sector, particularly workers and artists in marginalized communities.”