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New Body Cam Videos Document Ronald Greene's Brutal Death; More States Reopening With Daily Case Count Lowest Since Last June; Israel & Hamas Ceasefire Agreement Enters Second Day; White House Reduces Infrastructure Proposal; Smaller Music Venues Still Await Critical Federal Funding. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 22, 2021 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:07]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Outrage and frustration are mounting this morning. New video obtained by CNN shows the sequence of events that led to the death of Ronald Greene, a black man in police custody. A warning some of the images that you are about to see are disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car. Get out of the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok, ok. Oh, Lord Jesus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Louisiana state police just released this footage which includes nine different body cam and dash cam video clips. Greene's death happened over two years ago. Greene's family says police told them he died on impact in a car crash, but now his family says they believe police tried to cover up what really happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONA HARDIN, RONALD GREENE'S MOTHER: What we see in the videos that are show, they took pleasure in torturing my son. They took pleasure in hurting him, beating and killing him and letting him stay on the ground, putting him in shackles.

What kind of a human? These are state troopers. This is the behavior that the state of Louisiana, they endorse, because these troopers for two years have not been dealt with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The case is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation involving the FBI, the Department of Justice and the attorney general's office. CNN's Randi Kaye has a closer look at those videos and new autopsy photos obtained by CNN. But we do want to warn you again, the video, the images you're about to see are very graphic and disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREENE: Lord Jesus.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The new video obtained by CNN is 30 minutes long and offers a different view from a Louisiana state trooper's body camera than the video obtained earlier by the AP. It shows Ronald Greene, following a high-speed chase near Monroe, Louisiana on the ground face down and struggling to turn over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you turn over.

GREENE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you turn over. You lay on your belly. Lay on your belly.

GREENE: Yes, sir. Ok, ok, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to lay on your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) belly like I told you to. You understand me?

GREENE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

KAYE: Greene apologizes and politely calls the officer "sir", even as they continue to berate him. The video shows Greene's legs shackled and his hands cuffed behind his back.

When he cries out in pain, even calling on the Lord Jesus, the officers continue to restrain him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hurts, doesn't it?

GREENE: Oh, Lord Jesus. Oh, Lord.

KAYE: Louisiana state police kept this video under wraps for two years. Greene's arrest and subsequent death occurred back in May 2019.

This is what the family says Louisiana state police initially told them happened.

DINELLE HARDIN, RONALD GREENE'S SISTER: That he was in a car accident and that he hit his head on the steering wheel. And that's how he died.

KAYE: The family says police initially made no mention to them of the arrest or use of force, now revealed on the body camera videos. Another police report said Greene was taken into custody after resisting arrest and a struggle with troopers and that he died on the way to the hospital. His family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

D. HARDIN: This has been a cover-up from day one. They were out to kill him. He had no chance of living.

KAYE: In the video, it's not clear if Greene is offered medical attention as he lay on the ground, moaning and gurgling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was going to sit him up but I didn't want him spitting blood all over us.

KAYE: At one point on a new video, a medical technician arrives and is clearly concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not getting enough air.

KAYE: When it was over in previously-released video obtained by the AP, one trooper can be heard on his body camera audio boasting about beating Greene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I beat the ever-living (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of him, choked him and everything else trying to get him under control. He was spitting blood everywhere, and then all of a sudden he just went limp.

Yes, I thought he was dead.

KAYE: CNN has also obtained the autopsy report. It lists Greene's cause of death as cocaine-induced agitated delirium, complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury and restraint.

[11:04:47]

KAYE: According to the autopsy, injuries included a fracture of the sternum or breast bone and a torn aorta, the body's main artery. The autopsy notes that Greene had alcohol and a significant level of cocaine in his system.

These post-mortem photos of Greene released on the NAACP Baton Rouge Facebook page show the extent of his injuries. And the autopsy notes lacerations of the head inconsistent with motor vehicle collision injury. Instead finding these injuries are most consistent with multiple impact sites from a blunt object.

Randi Kaye, CNN -- Palm Beach County, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And we'll have more on this very disturbing story of Ronnie Greene there and find out how his family is doing and where the investigation is going next.

All right. More states now will take additional steps to reopen next week including Maine, Minnesota and Virginia. Each of those states outpacing the national benchmark of 38.5 percent fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

That's still well short of the herd immunity goals set by public health experts, but cases are at their lowest in nearly a year. Less than 30,000 a day for the first time since last June. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the path back to normal might eventually include booster shots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are planning for the eventuality that we might need to boost people. We don't know whether we will have to do it and when we will have to do it.

There's estimates, well, it may be a year, it may be a little bit longer. There's no set rule now that says in six months or in a year we're going to require a boost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. With me now to discuss, Dr. Anand Swaminathan. So good to see you.

So Dr. Fauci is acknowledging that we just don't know a whole lot about the booster shot as yet and when potentially they may come into play.

So what are going to be the indicators that it would be needed?

DR. ANAND SWAMINATHAN, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Fred, at this point we've got about seven months of data showing that the vaccines, the first set of vaccines are still effective and protecting people. And we're going to have to keep collecting data out of that.

I think the big thing that we're going to see is the number of breakthrough cases. We know breakthroughs are going to happen even in people who are fully vaccinated. But that breakthrough rate starts to pick up, if it starts to increase, that's a sign that those the vaccines might be lagging. They might not be doing the same in terms of protecting people that they were before.

So if our breakthrough rate is about 1 percent, if we see it tick up to 2, 3, 4 percent, that's a good sign that we're going to need boosters. We're going to need that additional coverage which means that we have to keep on top of testing even people who are fully vaccinated.

If you're fully vaccinated but you have symptoms, that you need to get tested because not only can you still get COVID, it's going to be important from a public health standpoint to understand as those breakthrough cases start to increase.

And I think that health care workers are going to kind of be the leading edge of this. We're the ones who are going to be the first to see that increase in cases, so we need to really stay on top of that as well.

And then, of course, along with this, we might get variants that evade our immunizations and that tracking and testing is going to be important to detect that as well. WHITFIELD: How encouraged are you that 50 percent of Americans are

vaccinated now and the number of cases is at its lowest?

DR. SWAMINATHAN: It's really heartwarming to see. I have now gone two consecutive shifts in a row without seeing a sick patient with coronavirus, which is the first time since early last march that that's happened. So that's a pretty amazing thing to be seeing. We are seeing some real decreases, as our rate of vaccinations tick up. This is proof that vaccinations clearly are the path to getting through this.

And you said 50 percent. I live in New Jersey and we're up over 70 percent with at least on shot in the arm and that really -- we're see that as we start to open and people become a little bit more relaxed, but still cautiously relaxed in doing that.

So this is a really big step but we need to continue to push with the vaccinations to get those rates much higher to really protect everybody.

WHITFIELD: So despite those high points, the recent polls show that there's a low level of trust in the CDC. I would love your input on why that may be. Only about half of Americans believe what the agency is telling them, according to this polling. What do you think the CDC is doing wrong? How can it right this?

DR. SWAMINATHAN: I think some of this is hangover from the last iteration of the CDC and the last, I guess, presidency and all the government around that. I think there was a lot of distrust in the CDC stemming from the last four years. And it's going to take some time for the current CDC, those people who are in positions now, to regain that trust in the public.

I think they're making some important steps toward doing that. I think they are trying to be as transparent as possible, really be revealing as to what the thought process is that goes into what they do, leading with science. I think all of those things are really commendable.

I think we need to start, again, working in cognitive psychology, behavioral psychology, understanding how people behave into those recommendations coming out of the CDC to increase trust.

[11:10:02]

DR. SWAMINATHAN: But right now I think the transparency is what's going to help the most. The fact that they were very open about what was happening with the J&J vaccine, that we're going to put a pause until we have more information.

As much as some people posited that that was deleterious to people's faith in vaccine, I think overall what it tells people is this is an organization that is really interested in the safety of the public and they're going to put that at the forefront of all the decisions that they make.

WHITFIELD: I want to turn now to schools. A weekly CDC report published yesterday detailed two programs in Utah that have had a lot of success with their testing regimen.

They tested students either once every 14 days or in response to outbreaks. And just with that, they say they managed to keep about 95 percent of planned athletic events, saved over 100,000 days of in- person learning for their students.

Is this a model in your view that should be applied to other schools?

DR. SWAMINATHAN: I think a lot of people have been talking throughout the pandemic about how testing can really supplement and get our kids not just into school, but staying in school.

And so if we do some random testing within schools on a regular basis, that can help to detect outbreaks before they happen. Pick up asymptomatic people, keep them at home, do testing and tracing to track down who else has been in contact, who else could be positive. That's going to help the rest of the student body stay in classes.

That test and trace and random testing is an important piece. I think it should be expanded. We've been lagging in testing throughout the pandemic. We're just starting to catch up a little bit now, but we need to bring this to schools.

And of course, the best way for schools to stay open is by vaccinating kids. Right now that's available for 12 to 17 or 12 to 18, depending on how old those seniors are. We need to continue to do that.

As we vaccinate more kids, it's going to be easier to keep kids in school. And of course, just like we have breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated, we will expect to see some side effects, some rare and uncommon side effects in kids, too. We need to keep track of that, keep on top of those things as well.

But right now the best data tells us it is safe to vaccinate 12 and up. My kid got his first vaccine last week, last Thursday, so he's about a week out of his first shot. That's how we can keep kids in the school, protected and safe.

WHITFIELD: My 16-year-old got his first shot on Thursday as well. Perhaps we were all at the same place.

All right. Dr. Anand Swaminathan, thanks so much. Good to see you.

DR. SWAMINATHAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Coming up, what is next for Gaza, after the latest ceasefire? We go there live for a closer look at the conflict and a road to a long-term truce.

[11:12:34]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: We're continuing to follow developments after new video obtained by CNN shows the events leading up to the death of Ronald Greene, a black man who was in Louisiana state police custody when he died two years ago.

Joining me right now is Ronald Greene's mother Mona Hardin, and Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Greene's family. Thank you so much to both of you. I know this is an incredibly difficult and emotional time.

Ms. Hardin, you know, you first. These videos are very difficult to watch. Give me an idea of when state troopers told you that your son had died in a car crash. He was on his way to Florida, right, to reunite with his wife from Monroe, Louisiana.

When they told you he died of a car crash, were you always suspicious?

M. HARDIN: Oh, yes, yes, because that was on the second or third day after he had gotten to Louisiana and we were told that. And when we asked, what was the initial cause of them pulling him over or attempting that, they said, well, it could have been anything.

I said, well, what was it? And they said, it could have been a broken taillight or expired tags. And I said, well, what is it exactly? What was the reason? And he says, well, you'll get that when we get through with our investigation. That's how he left it.

So this ongoing narrative of incomplete answers and we'll get to you when we're through with the investigation -- that was ongoing and the fact that within hours of him dying they took him for his autopsy to Little Rock, Arkansas and they wouldn't give us the information of what --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: And what were you thinking all of this time? All this time that was elapsing, here you are grieving, wondering what has happened to your son, and you can't get a straight answer? What was your heart and mind telling you had happened or was happening?

M. HARDIN: You know, my heart is beating crazy, just the fact that it's a constant reliving of this. I haven't even grieved. I told the kids, I said, do you know that I haven't even screamed, I haven't cried for my son, because this has been a living nightmare.

And the fact that he died, and I knew it must have been horrific, and to see the videos, I can't absorb it all. It's horrific.

WHITFIELD: It is horrific. And at what point did you see the videos? Because while the public has seen these first images that were publicized by way of the Associated Press, I also read that the state troopers had made it accessible for you a few months ago. When did you first see it and what were your thoughts?

[11:14:56]

M. HARDIN: That was back in September of last year. We were invited to Baton Rouge where we saw Governor Bel Edwards and John Belton (ph) and the Black Caucus and a lot of them up there.

And it was all for show. It was all for show. I saw minutes of it and I left -- I was so grateful.

But upon leaving, I'm like, where is the beginning, where is the chase? I want to see what happened. I want to see that. I want to see why, because why was never given to us.

And we're looking at a year and a half later and the fact that they allowed us to walk out of there not having answers. Why did they even invite us there to dangle that carrot in front of us?

And to put my family -- I'm so angry, I'm so angry. And yesterday it's another photo op, because the state of Louisiana and all the corruption that's happening with my son's murder is up in the news. So now, you know, who the hell are they going to throw under the bus this time to save their own necks? This is what's happening. I'm so angry.

WHITFIELD: Understandably. You still don't have a full picture answers about all of those events that transpired.

and then, Ms. Hardin, you know, one of the troopers we understand, of the four troopers that were involved, one of the troopers died in a car accident not long after being told an investigation on your son's death was under way, another was suspended for 50 hours.

What do you want -- besides the answers of all that transpired, what do you want to happen to these troopers?

M. HARDIN: They need to be incarcerated. They need to get stripped down for all that they've been doing. Who's (INAUDIBLE). We don't even know who else paid the cost for them being on duty or when they were, you know. My son is one of thousands.

WHITFIELD: Hopefully we get that signal back.

Lee Merritt back with us. So yes, There's no telling how many times over this has happened, the difference is with the advent of body cam and people having their personal cell phones, we are seeing the atrocities that have been taking place and have been told about for decades, you know, so many years.

So now let's talk about this particular situation and this evidence, the demeanor of these troopers and that one even boasted on tape about what he did, inferring that they were comfortable with this. And doing this and saying this knowing they were being recorded on their body cams.

What does this tell you about what is at hand, not just within Louisiana state troopers here, but perhaps others who were complicit to help cover this up?

LEE MERRITT, ATTORNEY FOR GREENE'S FAMILY: When Lieutenant John Clary (ph) arrived to the scene, three officers were covered in blood. And it's important that we start to say their names, because these are actually active duty police officers. They're patrolling the streets of Louisiana right now. These men you see brutalizing Ronald Greene, mocking him, cursing at him, pepper spraying him while he's in handcuffs, repeatedly tasing him. These men are still patrolling the streets right now. They're named.

Corey York -- Kory York is one of the officers involved, one of the troopers who used a splint to make sure that Ronald Greene stayed in a prone decision. Dakota DeMoss is one of the officers involved. And the third officer Chris Hollingsworth has since passed away. But those two officers are still needed to be held accountable.

But in addition to those men who were covered in blood at the time, the supervisors came and told them they did a good job. Supervisor John Clary said you men are doing a great job and to keep him in a prone position, although that goes against the training.

And then somebody allowed them to falsify those reports, to give false statements to the family, to deny the facts from the medical examiner who had to guess that he died from something other than a car accident, because as the ME report shows, his injuries were simply inconsistent with those injuries, the injuries that they were told about.

WHITFIELD: The video is horrific, and now these still images of Greene's face, his head, after his death. I mean, it reminds me of Emmett Till. I mean his mother wanted the world to see what hate did to her son.

Ms. Hardin, I understand the NAACP there helped make those images available. How do you hope these shocking images will invoke change?

[11:2451]

MERRITT: Well, similar to the case of George Floyd, we're hoping that now, because the state of Louisiana has already failed to do justice, it's been two years. They meted out a 50-hour suspension and one termination of an officer who died the same day. The other officers involved in this were allowed to continue.

So we're hoping that those shocking images, like the shocking images of Ahmaud Arbery, once it's in the hands of the people of Louisiana and the people of this country that we will now stand up and demand accountability.

We're hoping to hear from the attorney general's office in Louisiana so that state charges can move parallel to the federal investigation and we're expecting a federal indictment sometime this summer.

WHITFIELD: And Ms. Hardin?

M. HARDIN: The state of Louisiana has no credibility. They're an organized crime ring that's going on for hundreds and hundreds of years. You can see this time and time again. The video of my son you can just see it from the very beginning to end. It implicates those who were on there and then some. And just like Mr. Merritt said, you know, they have no credibility. They continue to try to shy away from and shine the light on other issues that has nothing to do with my son's murder. I'm disgusted.

WHITFIELD: I'm disgusted along with you. Mona Hardin -- yes, go ahead, please.

(CROSSTALK)

M. HARDIN: I have to say -- I have to say I just haven't grieved and I haven't even screamed, I haven't cried. And they have -- there's no empathy for how they do another human being and they let these families continue to suffer.

WHITFIELD: Yes. We pray with you. Mona Hardin and Lee Merritt, thank you so much.

M. HARDIN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.

[11:26:52]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is now in its second day and it appears to be holding. Humanitarian aid has also started flowing into Gaza after one of the border crossings was reopened.

CNN's Ben Wedeman looks at why despite the current ceasefire, hopes for a lasting peace remain dim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Since the 10th of May, the god of war smiled down upon this blighted land. Air strikes and rocket barrages, artillery and mortar fire. Hundreds of people dead and more than 2,000 wounded, tens of thousands made homeless.

(on camera): The current round of hostilities between Gaza and Israel, this too, shall pass. What shall not pass are the reasons for this conflict, played out in places like here Al-Bireh (ph) and other villages, towns and cities in the West Bank. In places like Sheikh Jarrah east Jerusalem and indeed in Gaza itself.

(voice over): Going back more than a decade, Sheikh Jarrah where Palestinian families face forced eviction has been a constant flashpoint in Jerusalem, even more so today.

In Jerusalem, Palestinian residents, nearly 40 percent of the population pay taxes, carry Israeli identification cards, but among other things, can't vote in the national elections. A new wave of protests has broken out in the West Bank, where millions of Palestinians live in limbo, crammed into an arch archipelago of pseudo-autonomous enclaves all ultimately under Israeli military rule.

Since hostilities began, Israel has pummeled Gaza with hundreds of air strikes while Hamas and other factions have fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel.

Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, but has maintained, along with Egypt, an effective blockade since 2007 when Hamas took over. Israel controls the birth registry, the airspace and maritime access, and much more. This war will change none of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like in South Africa, this has to end. Palestinians will not be second-class citizens in their homeland or kicked out of their place.

WEDEMAN: When relative calm returns and the world's attention moves on, the petty pace of this conflict will resume from day to day, until once more unto the breach.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And CNN's Ben Wedeman joins us now from Gaza city. So Ben, you've been covering the region for many years now. Is this latest round of fighting any different?

WEDEMAN: Not really. I mean certainly there have been four rounds of fighting since December 2008. Every one is different in terms of duration, death toll, the level of destruction, but when they're all over the result is the same.

[11:34:46]

WEDEMAN: Gaza slips back into this life of isolation where most people cannot travel out. You know, most Gazans you speak to have never been on a plane or a train or even stepped foot outside of the Gaza Strip.

So there's relief that this round of fighting is over, but there's a resignation that nothing is really going to change.

Now, this afternoon I was speaking with one man who owns -- lives in a house next to an area where a lot of homes were destroyed. His house was not directly hit but it's no longer habitable, and apparently it's going to have to be torn down because it's structurally unsound.

And he was telling me he has neighbors who have three, four, five sons -- few of them have jobs. They have no hope really for getting out of Gaza or improving their lives, and therefore, it's inevitable given the blockade that Egypt and Israel have imposed on Gaza since 2007, that the only form of employment is to work for Hamas, for Islamic jihad for a few hundred dollars a month.

You hear it time and time again, Fredricka. People say, if we had hope, if there was opportunity, if there was a chance for people to work, then the situation would be different. But as it is, four wars since 2008, nothing changes. There's no hope on the horizon, Fredricka. WHITFIELD: My gosh, no hope before these strikes and now so many

structures, places, you know, of residence are in shambles. So how can putting back the pieces actually happen?

WEDEMAN: Well, we heard President Biden, for instance, talking about funneling development to Gaza but not through Hamas. But Hamas is the government here and it's going to be very tricky.

Now, basically this blockade that's been in place since 2007 was intended to try to prevent Hamas and Islamic jihad and other factions from smuggling weaponry and supplies to make rockets.

Now obviously, after four rounds of fighting where Hamas and the other factions have fired thousands of rockets into Israel, it should be clear to the United States and other powers that backed this blockade that perhaps it's not working. The blockade has made life in Gaza miserable, but it has not impacted Hamas.

So obviously, the United States, if it means well, is going to have to come up -- perhaps it's not even money that's needed. What's needed is some way to ease the blockade, to make this small strip of land on the Mediterranean that's home to two million people able to use the obvious energy people have here to good use, to improve their lives, to grow their economy. Because at the moment, those opportunities, Fredricka, simply do not exist.

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right. Ben Wedeman, you painted a very detailed picture for us there from Gaza city. Thank you so much.

So the Biden administration slashes the price tag for that massive domestic infrastructure bill, but it is still possibly going to be an uphill battle to get it passed with bipartisan support. We'll talk about what's getting trimmed next.

[113830]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

The White House is dropping the price of the president's massive infrastructure plan in a counteroffer to reluctant Republicans. The new plan reduces the size of Biden's initial proposal, known as the American Jobs Plan, from $2.25 trillion to $1.7 trillion. The new offer is a decrease of $550 billion, but it still leaves the two sides very far apart.

Jasmine Wright is at the White House for us. So Jasmine, how are Republicans responding to this counterproposal from President Biden?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Fred, they're not happy. They expressed frustration yesterday after getting that counterproposal from the White House, saying that it was well above what they believe could get passed with bipartisan support through Congress. One aide told our own Lauren Fox that this was not a serious negotiation. So in a statement released after they learned of the counterproposal, written by an aide of Shelly Moore Caputo, the Republican that's leading the efforts on their side, the statement read "There continue to be vast differences between the White House and Senate Republicans when it comes to the definition of infrastructure, the magnitude of proposed spending and how to pay for it."

Now, the White House on their own part, they're saying that this is the art of seeking compromise. They're pushing back on criticism that this wasn't a serious effort, saying that it was. They say that this was made in kind showing that President Biden is willing to move on the issue.

But the open question is exactly how far. And they said that they got to this number, the reduced price, from $2.25 initially now to $1.7 trillion -- they got to that reduced price by making four major concessions.

One removes manufacturing, research, development and innovation elements. Another lowers broadband investments from $100 billion to $65 billion. Another reduces funding for roads, bridges and major infrastructure from $159 billion to $120 billion. And another offers to create an infrastructure bank.

But the real issue here is that that proposal, $1.7 trillion, is still double the price of what Republicans say they want to pay, which is about $800 billion.

[11:44:53] WRIGHT: So the question really is, where can that compromise come from, and can these two sides find a way to the center? And we just don't know that yet. But they are going to come back and try to find it, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jasmine Wright, we'll check back with you. Thanks so much from the White House.

All right. Still ahead as life strives toward normal post-COVID, the independent music industry still struggles. We'll talk about why next.

[11:45:21]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Oh, fun musical performances -- wasn't it fun the day when we were able to actually to go to a live performance? Watch your favorite band, perhaps.

Well, Duran Jones and the Indications -- that's who you just saw -- will be one of the first acts to return to the 930 club in Washington, D.C. It's one of the many venues that's actually struggling, but it does see itself as reopening again.

With all of the live shows canceled during the pandemic, well, the bills have been piling up. The Small Business Administration announced that it would award small venues more than $16 billion in grant funding back in December, which was five months ago, and still no checks in sight for so many of those venues. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that funding will finally be awarded next week.

Joining me right now to discuss this, Audrey Fix Schaefer. She's a board member at the National Independent Venue Association and the communications director for the 930 Club in D.C. Congratulations that you're going to have a live performance soon.

I think I was in college the last time I was at the 930 Club. So I'm glad you're still around.

AUDREY FIX SCHAEFER, BOARD MEMBER, NATIONAL INDEPENDENT VENUE ASSOCIATION: I'd have to get you back.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Wonderful. I will get back there.

So Audrey, so how might this funding help small venues like the 930 club?

SCHAEFER: Well, we have all been struggling across the country with zero revenue and all the overhead for about 15 months now. And that's why we all came together to form the National Independent Venue Association, so we could seek emergency relief because with zero revenue and rent and utilities and mortgage and taxes and all the expenses that come along with having a venue, it was insurmountable.

We knew that we would all go under if we didn't come together and lobby for this. And we're so grateful for Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn and Toomey (ph) for really spearheading this for us.

But this was one thing that cost us (INAUDIBLE) last year but we are all really in even more dire straits agonizing because this funding has not come.

And as we're so grateful that there are vaccines and people are starting to be able to gather again and we're starting to be able to open by the government's standards, the challenge is that until that money arrives from the Small Business Administration, we can't hire our staff back. We can't reserve the bands with their deposits, we can't get our buildings back in order. So we're really hamstrung until that money arrives. And it's been excruciating.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It really could come too late for a lot of venues who really just can't hold on any longer.

So when we hear that the maximum amount of venue could get $10 million, how much would a venue like say the 930 Club get? And is it $10 million for something like, you know, like the Kennedy Center. I mean, you know, a gigantic arena? I mean how much would a venue like a 930 Club get?

SCHAEFER: Well, the law was based on helping independent businesses, these are small mom and pop places. And how it is, 45 percent of their gross earned revenue from 2019. So that is how the bill is written. the hope is, is that once we get that money and -- by the way, I

should mention really sadly, hundreds of businesses have gone under as we waited for the bill to pass and then for the implementation of it.

But for those of us that are still here, that money is going to go to overhead and rent and paying bands and getting our rooms back in order so we can once again be the economic driver of our communities which we are because when people buy a ticket to a show, then they also have dinner at a restaurant across the street. They often travel.

So there's a study that showed that for every dollar spent at a small music venue, $12 of economic activity was realized for area businesses and that's why it's so important for these venues to be able to come back and be part of the economic renewal for our community.

Right. It's an all-evening event and certainly the success of one business is transferrable to your neighbors next door and you've got a lot of great restaurants right near you.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, we are wishing you the best. Of course, I only mentioned the Kennedy Center in terms of, you know, size -- scale comparison but I have no knowledge of whether they would be receiving or be a candidate for money like this from the federal government.

[11:54:53]

WHITFIELD: But Audrey Fix Schaefer, thanks so much to you. All of the best.

And yes, I'm going to make a date with the 930 Club the next time I'm in D.C.

SCHAEFER: Please.

WHITFIELD: I will be there. I will look you up.

SCHAEFER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right.

SCHAEFER: Ok.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:59:40]

WHITFIELD: Ok, just outside Butte, Montana, you'll find the country's fourth largest statue and rocks that sing. We're finding beauty on the Continental Divide in today's "Off the Beaten Path".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 8,500 feet up here on the top of the mountain, this is the place where our Lady of the Rockies is built. Beautiful sight. It's 90 foot high. You look up and you see just a beautiful lady there.