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Congressman introduces bill to rescind Kennedy Center’s $25M coronavirus grant

Congressman introduces bill to rescind Kennedy Center’s $25M coronavirus grant 1

WASHINGTON — Pressure is mounting for the Kennedy Center to return a $25 million federal grant after it announced it was axing staff regardless — one GOP lawmaker on Tuesday introduced a bill to rescind the funds.

Leaked audio of an internal conference call revealed how executives at Washington, DC’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts lobbied lawmakers for the massive handout as part of a coronavirus stimulus package but then furloughed more than 700 staff.

Wisconsin GOP Congressman Bryan Steil on Tuesday introduced a bill to rescind the $25 million in funding, saying the $2 trillion aid bill, known as the CARES Act, had been hijacked for political purposes.

“Families and workers are struggling to pay rent, pay their mortgage, and buy groceries. Americans need relief and assistance now which is why I supported the CARES Act,” Rep. Steil said.

“However, some in Washington felt it was important to spend $25 million of taxpayer dollars on the Kennedy Center when there are obviously bigger needs right now,” he added.

“This is frivolous spending in the midst of a national emergency. Coronavirus requires a serious and targeted response. Some of my colleagues refused to allow a clean bill to move forward.”

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“The Kennedy Center spending should have never made it into the final CARES Act. We must correct this mistake,” he said.

The hand-out for the cultural institution was already labeled by many conservatives as inappropriate, even though President Trump said he had no problem with it.

But that anger boiled over on Tuesday when it emerged the center never intended to save employees’ jobs with the money.

“It’s not like we can spend all the money right now to keep everybody whole and find ourselves without cash,” KCPA President Deborah Rutter told staff in a leaked internal call, claiming “most people” didn’t understand.

In a statement on Tuesday, the center said $20 million of the grant had been earmarked for staff compensation and benefits.

“Again, 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.

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