Live music is among the many things people missed out on during the height of the pandemic. Shutdowns were a major financial hit for professional musicians in our area.
In March of 2020, when the world shut down, EJ the DJ started streaming sets from his backyard in Scranton. More than half a million people around the world watched, but it didn't pay the bills.
Now that things have opened up, he's starting to earn again, but he says it's been tough.
"In simple words, it was awful because this is really my livelihood. This is all I do," he said.
Lackawanna County-based DJs and musicians are now eligible for federal grant money to help them recoup their 2020 losses.
The members of the band Lightweight all have day jobs, but singer Katie Blake says last year was still a big loss.
"It was a really nice pause, but we also reflected on what that supplemental income meant to us, and it was a big dent. We really had to buckle down and do some budgeting based off what our livelihoods had been versus what they are," Blake said.
The grants for musicians range from $10,000 to $25,000.
Economic Development Director Brenda Sacco says the county wanted to single out performers.
"There wasn't a grant specifically to assist them, so we wanted to develop a grant that could help them."
The money comes from the American Rescue Plan. Local governments like Lackawanna County are tasked with distributing it. The grant program fro for musicians is just the start.
"This is not our first rodeo. Since this was kind of thrown at us last year, we were really able to make an impact with the COVID dollars that we had last year, and we plan to do the same with the American Rescue dollars.
Musicians we spoke to say that is music to their ears.
"I think it's the perfect way of Lackawanna County understanding what these people bring to the area and making sure they're worth the while and making sure they get the money they deserve," Blake said.