Republicans on the House Oversight Committee Tuesday demanded top brass from the Kennedy Center explain why it furloughed 60 percent of its staff after receiving $25 million in coronavirus stimulus money.
The $25 million bailout for the Kennedy Center was one of the more controversial provisions of the coronavirus relief package known as the CARES Act.
Democrats had pushed for the money to help the Kennedy Center “prevent, prepare and respond to coronavirus.”
Last week, the iconic Washington, D.C. performing arts center announced it furloughed nearly 60 percent of its full-time staff from April 6 through at least May 10. Those layoffs are separate from the 725 hourly and part-time employees already impacted by the coronavirus.
Now Republicans want answers on why the funding wasn’t enough to save jobs at the prestigious venue, home to the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera.
In a letter to Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, the Republicans requested an explanation for all furloughs, layoffs or pay reductions; a detailed explanation of the Kennedy Center’s expenses and a plan to mitigate future job cuts.
“These layoffs, whether temporary or not, are counter to the spirit of the CARES Act and are concerning to Congress,” wrote eight GOP committee members.
“In light of the Kennedy Center’s most recent actions, public skepticism over the Democrats’ $25 million special allocation to a culture center while small businesses struggled to keep people on the payroll was well-founded,” the letter continued.
A Kennedy Center spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
Reps. Virginia Fox of North Carolina, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Greg Stuebe of Florida and Fred Keller of Pennsylvania are among the lawmakers who signed the letter.
Mr. Keller, in a separate statement, called the $25 million bailout “unconscionable” in the current economic climate.
“What’s worse, the Kennedy Center took the government’s money and laid off all their workers and musicians,” he said. “This is an affront to the spirit of Congress’ relief effort and tantamount to a fleecing of the American taxpayer.”
President Trump told reporters last month the Kennedy Center funding was necessary to get the stimulus bill passed. The president said he understood that it chafed conservatives, but it was a necessary concession to get a deal done.