Leaked Kennedy Center Conference Call Reveals Employee Layoffs Planned Before $25 Million Bailout 

Michael Tilson Thomas, Linda Ronstadt, Sally Field, Joan Ganz Cooney, Lloyd Morrisett, Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson
AP Photo/Kevin Wolf

A recording of a conference call between Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter and staff, obtained by conservative journalist with One America News Network and former U.S. naval intelligence officer Jack Posobiec, reveals that the institution planned to furlough and lay off staff even before it got the $25 million funding from the $2 trillion coronavirus relief act.

The almost hour-long call took place before the House approved the CARES Act that was passed by the Senate.

“Many of you have probably heard the Kennedy Center is in the stimulus bill for $25 million,” Rutter said in the call. “That now still has to go to the House for approval. We have every confidence that it will but until it’s done, it’s not done.”

Rutter referred to the center lobbying Congress, and in particular Democrats, who were willing to delay relief to the American people and economy to include unrelated funding in the bill, including to the Kennedy Center.

During the negotiations for the emergency legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delayed the process by introducing separate legislation that, aside from the Kennedy Center funding, included provisions for ballot harvesting, mail-in voting, a path to citizenship for illegal migrants, fuel standards for vehicles, and the radical Green New Deal agenda.

Rutter said in the call that it is “relationships” on the Hill and “savvy” that helped get the $25 million bailout, even as she spent the majority of the time telling staff that non-essential employees would be either furloughed or laid off until at least May 11, the date tentatively set for reopening the center.

The legislation was also delayed for days when Democrats voted against it – even though they had supported it before Pelosi’s intervention.

“We are really grateful for this $25 million but I will tell you that it does not keep us whole,” Rutter said, calling it later, “a life preserver in a hurricane.”

Rutter told the staff that the payroll cost at the center is $5 million or more a month. 

She announced that all of the staff tasked with parking at the center had already been laid off and, as Breitbart News reported, 96 members of the National Symphony Orchestra have been furloughed.

The call included advice to staff on how to respond to those critical of the center receiving funds when so many people are suffering and even dying because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are now the target for a lot of unhappy people who believe that we are taking the money away from sick people to do business,” Rutter said.

The center also defends itself on its website, including a list of how it will spend the $25 million: $12,750,000 for employee compensation, $7,500,000 for employee benefits, $1,750,000 for artist contracts and fees, $250,000 for “deep cleaning,” $250,000 for “IT to improve telework capacity,” $1,000,000 for rent or utilities, $750,000 for “information technology,” and $750,000 for “other administrative expenses.”

The statement on the center website said, in part:

Our extensive financial modeling indicates that if no changes are made to our spending patterns, even if we are able to open in mid-May, with the recent $25 million federal stimulus funding, the Kennedy Center would run out of cash as early as July. In order to stretch the Center’s finances as long as possible, we must take immediate action to change our expense structure and preserve cash.  In addition to drawing from the $25 million stimulus funding and the Center’s existing $10 million line of credit, we must furlough approximately 60% of the Kennedy Center’s full-time administrative staff beginning April 6 through at least May 10, 2020. These measures are apart from the 725 hourly and part-time employees already impacted. The remaining skeleton staff consists primarily of box office, finance, marketing, and development employees required to maintain business continuity. It is imperative that we scale back the entire institution’s personnel costs during this time of closure and dearth of ticket income.

Rutter also announced that the furloughed employees, but not those laid off, will have health insurance through May 31.

As Breitbart News reported, Rutter has put her $1.2 million annual salary on hold.

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