Kennedy Center lays off National Symphony Orchestra staff, musicians despite getting $25 million bailout

Kathryn Krawczyk

The Kennedy Center has come up with more than 100 things it won't use its $25 million bailout check for.

To some criticism, the performing arts center of Washington, D.C., was allocated $25 million in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package President Trump signed last week. But musicians for the National Symphony Orchestra learned just hours later that they'd soon be laid off without pay, and on Tuesday, staffers for the orchestra were laid off as well.

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter told the NSO's 96 musicians on Friday that they'd no longer receive paychecks after April 3, saying she was forgoing pay as well. The musicians also wouldn't receive health care benefits. And on Monday, news followed that at least 20 staffers supporting the NSO would be laid off as well. "It's starting to look like the Kennedy Center knew it was going to lay everyone off even before they lobbied for funds in the bailout," an anonymous orchestra member told the Washington Free Beacon.

The orchestra's union filed a grievance in response, and GOP lawmakers and conservatives started complaining about the contradiction on Twitter and demanding the money be handed back. Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wisc.) has even submitted legislation mandating the money be returned.

More stories from theweek.com
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is what real coronavirus leadership looks like
Coronavirus is making American workers say enough is enough
Stephen Colbert airs a 2016 duet with John Prine he'd kept in reserve in case 'we have to cheer up the world'