Aid for musicians seems likely as government responds to virus

The White House and Congress are negotiating the details of emergency aid that will likely include money for musicians and others who participate in the so-called gig economy.

President Trump said this afternoon that the size of checks mailed to Americans as the coronavirus continues taking a toll on the economy as well as individuals is “to be determined.” But, he added, “Everybody seems to want to go big.”

Multiple proposals are floating up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, from both chambers and both parties in Congress, and from the White House. Most of them center on payments of $1,000 to $2,000 per adult. Some of the plans would trim the amount of the check based on income, with less money for those with higher paying jobs. Also up in the air is whether the assistance would be a one-time payment or if further aid would be available down the road if the situation is slow to improve.

But at this point, nearly all of the proposals would pay just about everyone, not just those who are working. Earlier plans from the White House and some lawmakers would have given back money in the form of a payroll tax holiday, which would only help those who still had jobs and were having money withheld for Social Security and Medicare. This week, though, has seen a concentration of support for general payments.

Depending on how quickly the House and Senate approve the legislation and the president signs it, the first checks could be sent out next month.

The money wouldn’t solve musicians’ problems, but it would provide a bit of comfort for folks who don’t know when they’ll be able to resume touring. For some families with two full-time musicians, or with a musician and a spouse who has been laid off from a job, the stress is multiplied, not only by the loss of both incomes but from the difficulty finding a job to replace some of the money. Some businesses are shut down by government decisions, but even those that remain open are reluctant to fill openings because of the uncertainty.

Some Trump administration officials said that the unemployment rate, which earlier this year was among the lowest ever, could skyrocket to 20 percent. Trump said he didn’t agree with that assessment, but acknowledged it would climb.

(Editor’s Note: We’ll continue following developments that pertain to the bluegrass world, and report back as warranted.)

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.