There are lots of musicians now unable to perform because of the government's decisions to combat the COVID-19 virus. If you don't play, you don't get paid.

With all the restaurants and bars closed to the public, there is no more market for musicians. The people who entertained us in local establishments have had their entire economy destroyed. There are thousands of Massachusetts musicians who made all or some of their income from their trade and now they are forbidden to ply that trade.

Think of all the folks who played a few nights a week in New Bedford, Fall River, and Cape Cod establishments. Think of all of the artists who worked in Boston and surrounding towns. They, including some of my family and friends, are all out of work, just like the bartenders, waitstaff, managers, and cooks who also worked in businesses.

America has been here before.

During the Great Depression, one of the programs in the New Deal was directed to assist musicians and artists. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his team created a federal stream of revenue within the new and enormous Civil Works Administration to fund artists and musicians. As FDR biographer Conrad Black has pointed out, this wasn't just good for artists like Jackson Pollock, it was also good politics for those providing the government relief.

Most of these suddenly out-of-work local musicians have operated as unsophisticated small businesses with limited disclosure, reporting, and record-keeping. This lack of records makes it impossible for these small businesses to participate in the current relief packages. It is an opportunity for the government to formalize these small businesses while providing financial relief during this crisis.

Is there an elected official in Massachusetts who will follow in President Roosevelt's footsteps and bring relief to local artists?

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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