Gov. Newsom Signs Bill That Makes Critical Investments in California Nonprofit Performing Arts Organizations

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

“I am proud that California is providing much needed support to small nonprofit arts organizations,” stated Senator Portantino. “Our vibrant arts community drives much of our creative economy. Despite strong community support, our neighborhood theatres have suffered from under-investment and pandemic shutdown impacts. Investment in the arts helps all generations of Californians and it’s critical that we help create and sustain our creative work force. This funding that was possible through SB 1116 – the Equitable Payroll Fund - will prevent the closure of small arts nonprofits and job losses, and help them grow to become self-sustainable. A talented and terrific group of artists, actors, directors and writers worked tirelessly to advocate for this funding over the past three years. Today, we celebrate and appreciate those efforts to keep the lights on and the curtains up.”

“This is a critical time for everyone in the live arts, and I’m thrilled to see that California has met the moment at a perilous time for small theatres statewide,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “This funding is a win for everyone. It will ensure that actors, stage managers and other creative professionals are properly classified as employees - ensuring protections like workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance — while providing resources to not-for-profit theatres struggling to comply with that additional expense. This temporary relief will offer stability and growth potential, which will help communities of all sizes throughout the state. Live performing arts generate a halo effect that benefits nearby small businesses: restaurants, hotels and more. I am so thankful we had a champion like Senator Portantino leading the charge for us over the last year. We look forward to building on this work in the months ahead.”

“The Theatre Producers of Southern California are thrilled that funding to implement SB1116 The Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund has been secured,” said Martha Demson, President of the Theatre Producers of Southern California. “We believe this represents a critical step toward rebuilding sustainability for California's small nonprofit performing arts organizations, and for expanding job opportunities for thousands of underemployed creative workers in the sector.  We want to thank Senator Portantino for championing our cause over the past two years, and for his stalwart efforts in seeking to repurpose unexpended funds from earlier relief grant programs. We also want to express our gratitude to Governor Newsom for keeping these much needed dollars in the performing arts.  As we look to advance our work further in the months to come, we want to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions of Actors’ Equity Association in their unwavering dedication to our efforts together, the generous support of our partners at Californians for the Arts and Arts for LA, and the entire SB1116 coalition that never wavered in its purpose or advocacy.”

“This is a critical first step to providing support for an essential California workforce to not only recover but thrive. We applaud Senator Portantino for his unwavering support for arts workers and to the leadership of the California Legislature and Governor Newsom for keeping these funds in the arts. This is a hopeful victory for all the arts advocates who have worked tirelessly together over the last several years,” said Julie Baker, CEO, California Arts Advocates.

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.

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.

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  

September 20, 2023