California Bill Invests in Nonprofit Performing Arts Organizations

Los Angeles -– Actors’ Equity Association released the following statement commending California for language in SB 104/AB 104 trailer bills, that would reallocate $11.5 million in unused arts funding for SB 1116, a measure introduced by Senator Anthony Portantino (D – Burbank), which creates a payroll fund to support small nonprofit performing arts organizations (SNPAOs).

“As the nonprofit live arts increasingly faces a crisis, I’m pleased to see that California has allocated funding that will help strengthen local economies and put people to work in the arts,” said Al Vincent Jr., executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “We’ve had many conversations with the Newsom administration and the legislature about how the arts can be a huge economic driver in communities across California. Today, it is clear that we were heard. We’re especially grateful for the leadership of Senator Portantino who never gave up on fighting for us. We appreciate the support of Gov. Newsom, Senate Leader Atkins, Speaker Rivas and Senator Skinner and Assemblymember Ting, who were also critical in securing this funding. Tomorrow, we get back to work exploring how California can be a national leader in arts funding that puts workers first.”

“We are thrilled to see that funding has been secured to support the implementation of SB1116, through the redirection of funds already earmarked for the sector.  And we are relieved that work will soon begin to help stabilize California’s struggling small nonprofit performing arts sector by providing reimbursements of some payroll expenses for their employees,” said Martha Demson, President of the Theatre Producers of Southern California. “Our small live arts organizations and the artists they employ are a vital and vibrant resource for the state, yet they are currently at great risk.  We are grateful that the leadership in the legislature recognizes this.  We want to thank Senator Portantino for his tireless efforts on our behalf over these past two years, as well as our stalwart co-sponsor Actors' Equity Association, our dedicated supporters at Californians for the Arts and Arts for LA, and our valiant grassroots coalition.”

“We could not be more thrilled to see funding that was designated for the recovery of the arts, culture and live events industries be repurposed to support implementation of SB 1116 and help stabilize a critical workforce for California,” said Julie Baker, CEO, California Arts Advocates. “We want to spotlight Senator Portantino for his determination to get this done and to all the grassroots advocates who worked tirelessly to let their lawmakers know how critical this funding is to the nonprofit performing arts in California, you are all rock stars! We look forward to our continued work with Actors’ Equity and TPSCA to ensure the funding is distributed as quickly and as equitably as possible.”

The bill will need final approval by the legislature.

A study by CVL Economics, the firm behind the annual Otis College Report on the Creative Economy, the study found that while California’s Performing Arts sector rapidly grew between 2009 and 2019 – with employment increasing about twice as fast as the economy overall (43 percent) – the pandemic erased these employment gains in a matter of weeks. If current trends continue, California is projected to lose $4 billion in tax revenue over the next four years. 

While California has made gains under Gov. Newsom, it has suffered from years of underinvestment in the arts. Prior to the pandemic, California ranked 28th in state arts funding on a per capita basis. Even today, California still ranks behind states like New York, Florida, Alaska and Nebraska, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

To help build support for funding since SB 1116 was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year, Equity joined a coalition that included other unions and employers and advocates, held events in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco to build the case for funding and commissioned a study which found that live arts workers in the state have lost more than 150,000 jobs since the pandemic hit. Union staff and members also held dozens of meetings with legislative and administrative staff, including meetings with the Speaker of the Assembly, Budget Committee staff and chairs, and many other key decision-makers.

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks  

Aug. 31, 2023