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King County to fund theaters, arts with $20 million in COVID aid

Virus Outbreak Washington paramount theatre
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press file
In this photo taken March 15, the Paramount Theatre in Seattle displays a sign that reads "One Year Closed 3/11/20 - 3/11/21," to mark the one-year anniversary of the date the venue, which hosts concerts, plays and other performances, closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Near-empty streets surround the historic venue, which is run by the nonprofit Seattle Theatre Group.

King County will distribute $20 million in federal COVID-19 recovery funds to theaters, music venues, clubs and other artistic spaces, as cultural institutions work to rebound from pandemic-induced closures, the county announced Thursday.

The county has approved more than $1.4 billion in emergency funding since the start of the pandemic, the vast majority from state and federal grants. Much of that money has gone toward vaccination efforts, rental assistance, community support, economic recovery and public health efforts.

The newer, smaller, slice of funding will go to music venues, independent movie theaters, playhouses and museums, The Seattle Times reported. It comes from the COVID-19 relief law passed by Congress and signed by the president in the spring.

The Metropolitan King County Council voted 8-1 to approve the funding in May.

More than $16 million will go to “arts, culture and heritage organizations” that had a pre-COVID-19 annual operating budget of more than $1 million. Separate funds will be available for smaller organizations.

About $1.5 million will go to science and nature educational organizations.

There also will be $1 million for independently owned live music venues and $500,000 for independently owned movie theaters.

A survey of local arts organizations, conducted by the local arts advocacy group ArtsFund in the first half of this year, found their expected 2021 earned income was 65% less than pre-pandemic.