P3 loans haven’t stopped staff cuts at Philly museums

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Cultural institutions in the Philadelphia area received millions in Wage Protection program loans, but still laid off hundreds of workers, according to a recent AFSCME Cultural Workers Union report.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the Franklin Institute were among the most heavily funded local cultural institutions in the country.

Nationally, “museums with large endowments and multi-million dollar budgets got over $ 1 billion in taxpayer-funded loans and grants to fill their coffers, then threw their workers away. curbside, ”the report’s authors wrote.

Access to P3s has made businesses across the economy more likely to retain or rehire employees, according to a 2021 small business survey by 12 Federal Reserve banks. However, they found that nearly half of those who received the full requested amount in federal loans were still taking steps to reduce their payrolls.

WHYY has contacted all institutions in the region named in the report. Those who responded said they used the funds to keep staff employed during the worst days of the pandemic, and without the funding they would have lost more jobs.

For example, the federal government granted the Philadelphia Museum of Art two loans worth over $ 5 million.

“[The Philadelphia Museum of Art] was closed twice and the PPP loan was 100% spent on salary costs, ”said Norman Keyes, PMA communications director, who confirmed the loan amount.

The museum has still cut 127 jobs, or about 23% of its staff. Of these, 42 made voluntary buyouts, according to the PMA.

“I don’t believe they did all they could [to save jobs]”said Gina Buoncristiano, a former coordinator of the student center that the PMA sacked last August. Buoncristiano was one of some 50 education department employees fired at a time that corresponded to a controversial organizing campaign.

Buoncristiano said that initially his salary of around $ 31,000 was reduced, in line with a company-wide gradual reduction in salaries for employees earning $ 30,000 or more. This was done at the worst of the pandemic in order to preserve jobs, museum management said.

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