Jerry Seinfeld: Saving live venues with private funds 'doesn't seem like how government works'

Seinfeld is supporting the "Save Our Stages" bill to provide $10 billion in grants to live venues hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated: September 18, 2020 - 8:46am

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Comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld said rescuing live venues hurt by the coronavirus pandemic with private donations isn't the way government works.

Seinfeld, who is supporting the Save Our Stages bill to provide $10 billion in federal grants of up to $12 million to live venues, was asked if he is going to donate to live venues in New York City.

"That doesn't seem like how government works at all," Seinfeld said, alongside Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer during an event at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City on Sept. 13. "So now we're going to go to private citizens and just ask them to kick in?"

Seinfeld recalled Katie Couric asking him a similar question about organizations raising money after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"She said, 'Why don't you just give them the money?'" Seinfeld said, before Schumer jumped in.

"This industry is so big," said Schumer. "Even with Jerry's success and the amount of money, it couldn't come close to keeping the clubs open as necessary."

Schumer added the bill's rescue funding would be targeted at venues all over the country, not just New York.

"Every club can apply, and every club will get money," he said. "The bigger clubs will get more money because they employ more people, but it's based on employment and revenues."

Schumer said the bill won't direct the venue to spend the taxpayer funds on specific areas. 

"It [the funding] goes to employees — it's very flexible," he said, adding that the funds can be put toward rent and utilities as well. "It's up to the owner, but the owners are going to keep their employees."

The third coronavirus bill, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, included $75 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $150 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, and $25 million for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which provoked anger in Congress by announcing plans to furlough musicians after the relief package was approved.

Schumer said that there's a 50/50 chance a fourth stimulus bill will pass before the presidential election. He hopes the Save Our Stages legislation will be incorporated into such a package.

"If it happens, there will be money for localities and money for Save Our Stages," he said.

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