Houston arts groups have struggled mightily during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the Houston Ballet canceled its 2019-2020; in March, as CultureMap reported, the Alley Theatre announced that it was temporarily laying off 75 percent of its staff and asking the remainder who make more than $50,000 per year to take a pay cut, in addition to cancelling the rest of its 2019-2020 season.
But slowly, certain organizations are rebounding, offering a happy twist to this dystopian nightmare. Houston Grand Opera announced that it has received a Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA) for $2.5 million.
The funding will allow HGO to restore all furloughed employees and to cancel salary rollbacks that were slated to go into effect this week.
As fans and patrons know, the opera had to cancel its spring repertory of Salome and The Magic Flute, as well as its annual Opera Ball, its major annual fundraiser. The company did not receive a PPP loan in the first round and was forced to furlough 20 percent of the staff and institute tiered salary reductions, according to an HGO statement. The second round of loans means HGO can now keep all staff members employed.
“We are thrilled that our loan application was approved quickly and that HGO can now move forward in a more secure financial position, including retaining our entire staff,” said Perryn Leech, HGO’s managing director, in a statement.
“The economic effects of the pandemic have been far reaching for HGO and many other arts organizations. Our staff members have been steadfast and unwavering in their support during this difficult time, as they were during Hurricane Harvey. I’m relieved that we can continue their employment as we look forward to our 2020-21 season starting in October.” Leech also tips a hat to the team at Frost Bank, which helped the application process for the SBA loan.