This week, news broke that the Kennedy Center had laid off 95 staff members–just hours after Congress voted to give them $25 million to help balance their budget.
Now? They could lose everything.
Republican Rep. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin introduced a bill to rescind the $25 million payout the Kennedy Center was set to receive. The money was allocated as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus package.
The new bill already has 15 cosponsors in Congress, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, but it faces a challenge in winning over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who called for the Kennedy Center funding in the first place.
But Steil’s willing to fight, calling it “appalling” that the Kennedy Center received a huge payday and then fired a big chunk of its staff.
“I talked to people at home here in Janesville, I talked to a doctor who couldn’t get a medical mask, who couldn’t get PPE, then at the same time we see a sweetheart deal for a well-connected theater in Washington, DC,” said Steil, in an interview with the New York Post.
“When you see huge pieces of legislation and large amounts of spending move quickly, there’s always a risk that people will try to utilize that to obtain benefits for their pet projects. We saw that with the Kennedy Center,” he added.
Facing unprecedented controversy, the Kennedy Center released a statement trying to justify why the Kennedy Center needed both the $25 million bonanza, but also needed to lay off workers.
“All of these choices are difficult, though absolutely necessary for us to re-employ staff and musicians when we can resume our programming and bring audiences back to the Center in the months to come,” the statement read.