Organizations working to preserve independent music and entertainment venues in the United States are calling for the immediate release of funds in the 'Shuttered Venue Operators Grant' (SVOG) program.
The SVOG program was signed into law in December 2020, but its $16.1 billion in funding for eligible entities has yet to be released.
SVOG was designed to provide eligible movie theaters, live venue operators and promoters, talent representatives, and performing arts organizations with grants equal to 45 percent of their 2019 gross earned revenue, up to a maximum of $10 million.
More than six months since SVOG became law, many of the program's 14,000-plus applicants are still "suffering deeply," due to fallout from COVID pandemic-related closures and restrictions, according to the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA).
Repeated errors and delays from the Small Business Administration (SBA) have endangered the businesses the SVOG was designed to help.
The SBA missed its June 9 deadline to grant funds to businesses that suffered 90 percent or more losses and its deadline to begin making grants to the second tier of struggling businesses, suffering 70 percent of more losses.
As of the June 9 deadline, the SBA has awarded just 90 total grants.
Venue operators and other SVOG stakeholders say the holdup in the release of funding is having ripple effects on communities built around entertainment venues.
"Just today we heard from a member theatre in North Carolina that funds won't reach them in time to cover the costs of hiring back additional staff as they had planned," said Ken Stein, President and CEO for the League of Historic American Theatres. "That one theatre means both jobs lost and, about $15 million in patron spending in a community that won't be coming to local businesses who are hurting as well. This scenario is happening across the nation, and it did not need to be this way. The funds are there. They have been there for six months. They need to be disbursed."
Venues can't reopen if they don't have funding to hire staff, pay vendors or pay their rent.
"We couldn’t be more grateful that Congress saw fit to provide $16 billion to Save Our Stages, but this untenable wait for the emergency relief has been torturous and damaging to our industry, our employees, and our communities," said NIVA Executive Director Rev. Moose. "With the changes made by the White House and our Congressional Champions, we are hopeful that the SBA will award the grant funds without any further delay."
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