"Red Alert Restart" calls for extended unemployment benefits

Emily Burkhard
Updated: September 02, 2020 10:45 AM
Created: September 01, 2020 11:41 PM

ALBANY - Over 1,000 music and entertainment venues across the country were lit up in red Tuesday night to show support for entertainment industry employees who are out of work through a movement called “Red Alert Restart.” 

Several Capital Region venues participated, including the Times Union Center, The Palace Albany, Proctors Theatre Schenectady, and Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

Local experts said the movement is also a call to action for congress. They said if passed, the Restart Act would loosen the requirements associated with the Paycheck Protection Program and expand benefits under existing unemployment assistance programs.

"It's something that is badly needed for those that are not collecting unemployment or are on the brink of bankruptcy,” Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber said. They need help and this is the kind of bill that will help get them there."

Belber said it the legislation would bolster the $877 billion dollar live entertainment industry, which employs over 12 million people nationwide. He said currently, over three quarters of them don't have any income.

"Tonight [Tuesday] is something that's more or less in honor of all of those are suffering,” Belber said.

Belber said industry experts are not pushing for earlier re-opening, as they want to make sure they can keep their employees and guests as safe as possible; and that may mean waiting until a vaccine is widely available.

In the meantime, they are busy making seating and service changes.

“So that we can get people in the doors we have signage we have people that will be fully trained, masks will be required, temperature checks will be taken and people will be able to sit with their group and be 6 feet apart from any other groups that will be coming in,” he said.

Belber said when the TU Center is allowed to reopen maximum capacity will likely cut to about 4,000 seats, or 25 percent of what it was.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said, still, it would provide an opportunity for those employees to work, and for community members to get out.

"One thing I noticed through this whole thing is restaurants opened up people want their live music, they want their entertainment,” McCoy said. “They just want to forget about all the problems of the world what better place to do it then the magical place like the Times Union Center?"

Though live venues certainly have a lot to overcome, it's possible another obstacle may be thrown into the mix on the local level.

Mohawk Harbor developer, The Galesi Group, is reportedly looking into building a 4,000 seat venue of their own, which Belber said could hurt existing locations significantly.

"I think it needs to be looked at and hopefully something can be done to work something out so that everybody wins,” he said.

A representative for The Galesi Group said they have no plans in the works; it's all speculation. They added, given the current state of affairs they couldn't say what any possible venue might look like as they don't know what the future holds for concerts, sports, trade shows.

If you'd like to show support for the restart act, you can find a link to a letter for your congressional representative here.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this story.

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