Pelosi Wanted a Bailout of the Kennedy Center in the Stimulus Bill, but Employees Just Found Out They Aren't Going to Be Paid

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., makes a statement about a coronavirus aid package, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) fought very hard to get Democratic pork and pet programs into the stimulus bill that was just signed, even as her delay was costing Americans their jobs and the failure to move on it was having businesses go under.

An Italian food business near where I live that had always operated on a string just went under in that time. Thanks, Nancy Pelosi for your sage leadership. Those people managed to stay in operation for years until this did them in.

One of the things that Pelosi pushed for that stayed in the bill was $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. One of the arguments for keeping it in was that they had employees that they need to cover like other business entities.

But apparently the money isn’t going to keep all those employees, because even after the bill was signed, the Kennedy Center told the members of the National Symphony Orchestra that they weren’t going to be paid, according to an email about which the Free Beacon reported.

Nearly 100 musicians will no longer receive paychecks after April 3, according to an email from the orchestra’s Covid-19 Advisory Committee.

“The Covid-19 Advisory Committee was broadsided today during our conversation with [Kennedy Center President] Deborah Rutter,” the email says. “Ms. Rutter abruptly informed us today that the last paycheck for all musicians and librarians will be April 3 and that we will not be paid again until the Center reopens.” [….]

The bailout was designed to “cover operating expenses required to ensure the continuity of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and its affiliates, including for employee compensation and benefits, grants, contracts, payments for rent or utilities, fees for artists or performers,” according to the law’s text. The arts organization decided that the relief did not extend to members of the National Symphony Orchestra, its house orchestra.

“Everyone should proceed as if their last paycheck will be April 3,” the email says. “We understand this will come [as a] shock to all of you, as it did to us.”

One would think the first priority — according to the purpose of the bill — was to help employees.

So if the money isn’t going to principal employees like the house orchestra, where is the money going? The Kennedy Center didn’t respond to the Free Beacon’s request for comment.

One veteran member of the orchestra told the Free Beacon, “It’s very disappointing [that] they’re going to get that money and then drop us afterward.” “The Kennedy Center blindsided us,” the musician said.

The orchestra is claiming that this move by the Center violates their collective bargaining agreement that requires they be given six weeks’ notice before checks can stop.

“There is no provision of our collective bargaining agreement that allows the Kennedy Center to decide to stop paying us with only one week of notice,” the email says. “While we fully expect that an arbitrator would agree that management violated the CBA and that we are entitled to continued salary and benefits, this process takes time.”

As the Free Beacon notes, the Center recently completed a $250 million renovation and had already received $41 million in taxpayer funds in 2019. They are scheduled to reopen on May 10.

So tell us, Nancy, what is the money being used for? Where is it going to go? And we thought that was one of the things that was supposed to be part of the bill; that it was stipulated that that was the kind of thing it was supposed to be for? At the very least, the Kennedy Center owes Americans an explanation as to where the money is going and Pelosi owes us that explanation.