Carnegie Hall Is Among Cultural Sites That Got PPP Aid

Several of the nation’s most elite cultural institutions, some with hefty endowments and catering to the wealthy, received millions of dollars in coronavirus-relief loans, according to records released Monday.

The institutions -- such as Carnegie Hall and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the San Francisco Symphony -- were among the largest recipients of aid to nonprofits under the program, with each of them receiving injections in the range of $5 million to $10 million.

The Paycheck Protection Program, introduced earlier this year by the U.S. Small Business Administration, was intended to help struggling companies pay their employees as business ground to a halt because of coronavirus lockdowns.

More than 42,000 nonprofits received at least $150,000 in PPP aid apiece. The loan amounts disclosed Monday were stated in ranges, not specific amounts. Charitable organizations were eligible for PPP loans if, like for-profit companies, they had fewer than 500 employees and promised to use the money for payroll or other overhead costs.

Thousands of nonprofit recipients were the kind of charities that feed the poor, help the disabled or care for senior citizens. But among them were also dozens of nonprofits that serve as the organizational structure for cultural institutions that already have access to wealthy benefactors, and already capture a sizable chunk of charitable donations.

Carnegie Hall, one of the nation’s premiere performing arts spaces, received a $5.5 million loan despite having net assets of $497 million as of last year, most of which it holds in investments. Most of its shows this season have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus, though it has been hosting performances over video.

“The performing arts are expected to be one of the last industry sectors to recover from this crisis, and financial impact continues to be very significant,” said Synneve Carlino, a spokeswoman for Carnegie Hall. She said that even after budget cuts, the organization projects a deficit of $8 million for the fiscal year that ended on June 30.

The Whitney Museum didn’t respond to a request for comment.

San Francisco’s symphony is one of the most well-funded in the country. Its former conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, received a salary of $2.6 million, making him one of the highest-paid conductors in the country, and its musicians receive a base salary of more than $180,000, also among the highest in the country. It had total assets of $340 million last year, including investments of more than $280 million, according to the financial statement posted on its website.

The symphony has canceled its remaining performances for the year because of the virus. San Francisco’s opera, ballet and its Museum of Modern Art -- whose permanent collection includes works by Henri Matisse, Richard Diebenkorn, Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keefe -- also each received loans in the $5 million to $10 million range. The symphony and the museum didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In Los Angeles, the opera and the Hammer Museum, founded by Armand Hammer, the former chairman of Occidental Petroleum Corp. and originally funded by the company to exhibit his personal art collection, each received loans of $2 million to $5 million. A museum representative declined to comment.

The Los Angeles Opera said its PPP money helped save the jobs of more than 200 people, including carpenters, electricians and tailors. “We are exactly the type of organization this plan was designed to help,” an opera spokeswoman said.

(A previous version of this article corrected the size of Carnegie Hall’s assets.)

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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