House GOP Demand Kennedy Center Answer for Layoffs, Return Some of $25 Million Coronavirus Relief

Audience members watch as Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda conducts the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) during a concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC, on February 14, 2019. - In the concert hall, the sound is crisp, slicing through the air like a sharp …
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform have sent a letter to Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, demanding answers on the decision to lay off and furlough scores of employees — including members the National Symphony Orchestra — after the center got $25 million in coronavirus relief funding.

Fox News reported on the letter, which also asks that the center to return some of the funding:

After Democrats came under fire for successfully pushing for the center’s bailout, the organization announced that it is furloughing nearly 60 percent of its full-time administrative staff from April 6 to at least May 10, and that this is “apart from the 725 hourly and part-time employees already impacted.”

In a letter Tuesday to Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter, the GOP representatives demanded answers and the return of at least some of the funding they just received.

“These layoffs, whether temporary or not, are counter to the spirit of the CARES Act and are concerning to Congress,” the letter said.

These furloughs were on top of what was going to be an additional furlough of musicians with the National Symphony Orchestra. According to the Washington Post, the Kennedy Center announced Tuesday that they reached a deal with the orchestra to avoid furloughs, but that musicians will take a significant pay cut at least through September.

“The public’s perception is that the Kennedy Center leadership took taxpayer funding and left their employees holding the bag,” Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “Congress, and more importantly the public, deserves answers to the questionable decisions made to furlough employees after receiving funding to prevent that.”

Joining Gibbs as signatories of the letter were Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC).; Ralph Norman (R-SC); Carol Miller (R-WV); Mark Green (R-TN); Greg Steube (R-FL); Glenn Grothman (R-WI), and Fred Keller (R-PA).

Fox News reported:

The letter further demanded that the center provide information in the form of a briefing that addresses why they needed to go through with ‘any and all furloughs, layoffs, or reductions in pay,’ a plan to prevent further similar measures, and a ‘delineated explanation of expenses’ for the center.

This is the second letter from Congress to the center. One week ago, two Republican lawmakers introduced legislation to reclaim the $25 million allocated to the center in the CARES Act.

Rep. Bryan Steil, (R-Wi), who introduced the bill to get the funding returned, said the bailout was always a “mistake,” Fox News reported.

Keller called the $25 million payout was “unconscionable” given that the U.S. economy is basically shut down and some ten million Americans have lost their jobs.

“What’s worse, the Kennedy Center took the government’s money and laid off all their workers and musicians,” Keller said in a statement included in the Fox News report.

 “This is an affront to the spirit of Congress’s relief effort and tantamount to a fleecing of the American taxpayer,” Keller said.

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