State funding approved to implement Equitable Payroll Fund (SB1116) to support small nonprofit performing arts organizations.

California Arts Advocates (CAA) is thrilled to share that funding to implement the Equitable Payroll Fund (SB1116) has been included in the SB104 budget act, signed by Governor Newsom.  The Equitable Payroll Fund was introduced in 2022 by Senator Anthony Portantino (D – Burbank) and signed into law by Governor Newsom, but until now remained unfunded. The current challenges facing the performing arts have been well documented, the trend of theater closures and contractions is being seen across the state. The Equitable Payroll Fund is a workforce investment intended to help stem these losses. The Fund will support small nonprofit performing arts organizations by reimbursing a portion of their payroll expenses. 

Julie Baker, CEO California Arts Advocates, “CAA is grateful to Senator Portantino for his steadfast leadership for arts workers and for a thriving nonprofit performing arts ecosystem. We also recognize Governor Newsom, and the Legislative leadership teams for ensuring there are funds to implement SB 1116. The timing could not be more critical as we know this sector of the arts is slower to rebound. Due to a confluence of reasons, including systemic undercapitalization of the arts, many in the nonprofit live arts are hanging on by a thread. SB 1116 is an innovative solution to ensure there are well paid jobs and creative incubators for performing arts. However, the funding is much smaller than the problem and we look forward to working with the Legislature and Administration to ensure both swift and equitable implementation of the bill and increased investment overall in the future of the creative workforce, a vital yet vulnerable industry.”

The important financial impact of the performing arts on the overall California economy has long been overlooked and undervalued. A recent study by CVL Economics showed the significant economic impact of the performing arts sector in California, “for every 100 Performing Arts jobs in 2021, an additional 156 jobs were supported in other sectors through downstream impacts. This translated to the generation of about $49.1 billion in value added and $3.4 billion in state and local tax revenue. In other terms, each Performing Arts job resulted in $13,287 additional state and local tax revenue.”  

“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 theaters 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 theaters 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.”

This is an advocacy success story, and a great demonstration of the power of collaborative advocacy. No single factor made this achievement possible, it was the result of a combined effort of individuals and organizations across the state. Investing in funding for SB1116 was one of CAA’s prioritized legislative asks for the 2023-24 budget. The urgent need for this investment in the creative workforce was an important element in messaging during April’s Arts Advocacy Day in Sacramento. In 85 meetings with legislators and their staff arts advocates made the case for the impact of this investment in their communities. These efforts supported the work of Actors’ Equity Association, Theatre Producers of Southern California, Arts for LA, Theatre Bay Area and a coalition of individual artists and arts organizations from across the state.