Carper Hosts Delaware Small Businesses for State of the Union

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) tonight will host a group of Delaware small businesses as his virtual guests for President Biden’s first State of the Union address.

Senator Carper’s virtual guests include Mark Fields, executive director of The Grand Opera House in Wilmington; Ron Ozer, director of the Arden Concert Gild; Darren Silvis and the staff of the Freeman Arts Pavilion in Selbyville; and Fred Munzert of The Milton Theatre. All of these organizations were able to keep staff on payrolls and stay in business after getting support from the American Rescue Plan, COVID-19 relief legislation supported by Carper and signed into law by President Biden. Carper authored a provision of the American Rescue Plan, the Save Our Stages Act, that helped provide relief to small live performance venues.  

“I am proud of the work we did to help businesses and organizations keep their lights on during the pandemic,” said Sen. Carper. “Our live music, theater, and cultural institutions have been among those businesses that felt the economic hit the hardest. A little over a year into President Biden’s presidency, the relief programs we created have helped these businesses weather the storm so they could continue providing entertainment, education, and gathering places for our community.”

“Like most performing arts centers, The Grand was closed entirely by the pandemic … for more than 600 days,” said Fields. “The Grand pivoted to providing alternative programming including drive-in and walk-in outdoor concerts and even a holiday light show. But the loss of income took a terrible toll, and 60 percent of the full-time staff had to be furloughed and those remaining had to take deep pay cuts. Unprecedented support from numerous federal, state, and county COVID relief programs allowed The Grand to rehire much of the staff, restore the pay cuts, re-open the building, and resume a significant amount of its programming service to the community. The community rallied behind The Grand, which is in the midst of celebrating its 150th anniversary of live entertainment on Market Street; and we have raised more than $5 million to continue our transformative mission through the arts.”

“Arden Gild Hall was closed for over a year because of the pandemic and the next year has certainly been far from normal,” said Ozer. “The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant that Senators Carper and Coons and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester supported has saved our organization from what would have been a deep and destabilizing debt. We have used the funds to supplement our latest season of music and theater and set ourselves up for a stronger future. We are very grateful for the support!”

“The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, a nonprofit arts organization based in Selbyville, Delaware, operates the Freeman Arts Pavilion, an open-air performing arts venue, located just three miles west of Fenwick Island. Founded in 2007, the organization’s mission of making the arts accessible for all continued to make an impact even during the COVID-19 pandemic with a 2020 performance season, operating among only a handful of live arts venues across the country,” said Silvis. “In 2021, the Pavilion safely welcomed over 81,000 patrons for live, diverse arts performances, and new, innovative arts programs were created for local school children, reaching over 35,000. This success was due to the impact of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Payroll Protection Program. The Foundation remains full of gratitude for these programs that amplified its role as a leading, sustainable arts organization serving the residents and visitors of Delaware and beyond.”

“Perhaps no industry felt the brunt of the pandemic more quickly, and severely, than live venues,” said Munzert. “Especially at the Milton Theatre as 100 percent of our operating costs come from ticket sales. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant helped pay for our operations and enabled us to keep essential staff that attended to all the work to ensure that we’re ready for our eventual reopening. The Milton Theatre is serving the community again and is determined to stay as a premier live art venue for generations to come.”