No Relief? Fortenberry Fears Lied Center Could miss out on COVID Funding

The Lied Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo courtesy of the Lied Center)
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February 23, 2021 - 10:11am

Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry thinks peculiar wording in the most recent COVID-19 relief bill may exclude college-owned venues from collecting relief funds.  

Fortenberry said a provision that states venues that receive more than 10% of their gross revenue through the federal government are excluded from relief funding. 

He fears that could cause confusion as to whether university-owned venues like the Lied Center in Lincoln would qualify because of their association to the schools, which often receive more than 10% of their revenue through federal funding. 

“The Lied Center is a part of the University of Nebraska but doesn't receive its revenues from there, only, as I understand, about 5%", Fortenberry said. “So, it is, for the most part, an independently operating organization that is tethered to the University both by proximity and organization. But because of this peculiarity in federal law, it's being excluded.” 

Fortenberry sent a letter to the Small Business Administration on behalf of venues like the Lied Center but has not received a response directly. He said the guidance he did receive did not resolve the issue. 

Lied Center Executive Director and Chief Artistic Director Bill Stephan said that while the Lied Center has been hosting shows during the pandemic, they have still taken a financial hit.

“Our ticket sales have not returned. We're providing many of our programs for free, and then the ticket sales that we are bringing in are very, very small compared to normal. Our capacity of our venue, you know, is 25%," Stephan said. 

Stephan said although the Lied Center will continue to put on shows regardless of whether they receive the funding (A spring lineup has already been announced), getting it would go a long way to beginning to hire back staff and securing a set program schedule. 

Fortenberry said that he is only aware of the Lied Center raising concern about the issue but is working with Stephan to find more performing arts centers around the country that would be left out under the law. 

He hopes to eventually form a coalition with other members of Congress to bring attention to the issue. 

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