SBA reopening Shuttered Venue Operators Grants after site crash

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Venues such as Van Andel Arena may be eligible for a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. Courtesy ASM Global

The U.S. Small Business Administration fixed a technical glitch and applications reopened for its Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

The relief program is offering $16.2 billion on a first-come, first-served basis for operators of live venues, live performing arts organizations, museums and movie theatres, as well as live venue promoters, theatrical producers and talent representatives.

Those eligible entities are some of the first that had to shut their doors a year ago in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some were eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans, the SVOG program is one of the first relief sources that is tailored specifically to venues and entertainment operators.

“Concerts, plays, dance performances, movie premieres, museum exhibits — these are the lifeblood of culture and community, and often the anchor for travel, tourism and neighborhood food and retail stores,” said Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “We know that for the stage and venue operators across the nation that help make this culture happen, the pandemic has been devastating. Too many have been forced to lower the final curtain on their businesses. Today, with more than $16.2 billion available through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG), help is here. The SBA is committed to moving as quickly as possible to deliver this vital funding effectively and equitably — ensuring relief goes to those venue operators whose revenues have been most impacted by the pandemic.”

The SVOG program opened for applications April 8 but encountered technical difficulties that week that necessitated a pause of the portal. The portal reopened 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

The SBA appropriated more than $16.2 billion for SVOG grants via the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act and the American Rescue Plan. Of these funds, at least $2 billion is reserved for eligible SVOG applications with up to 50 full-time employees. Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue up to a maximum amount of $10 million for a single grant.

The SBA is accepting SVOG applications on a first-in, first-out basis and allocating applicants to respective priority periods as it receives applications. The first 14 days of SVOG awards, which are expected to begin in late April and early May, will be dedicated to entities that suffered a 90% or greater revenue loss between April and December 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second 14 days will include entities that suffered a 70% or greater revenue loss between April and December 2020. Following those periods, SVOG awards will include entities that suffered a 25% or greater revenue loss between one quarter of 2019 and the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The SBA created an informational webinar to highlight the application process for potential eligible entities. The agency also provided recurrent program updates and information via frequently asked questions, additional video tutorials, an application checklist and eligibility requirements through SBA’s dedicated SVOG website and targeted outreach to potential applicants.

As the SBA built the SVOG program, it worked closely with federal partners, including those dedicated to the affected industries such as the National Endowment for the Arts and Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Congressional authors in analyzing the legislation and Congress’ intent. The agency also consulted industry partners, such as the National Independent Venue Association, National Association of Theatre Owners, National Independent Talent Organization, Performing Arts Alliance, Broadway League, American Alliance of Museums and the Associations of Art Museum Directors, Children’s Museums, Science and Technology Centers, and Association of Zoos & Aquariums. The SBA’s collaboration with those organizations was vital to SBA’s understanding of and guidance for potential SVOG applicants, and the agency said it looks forward to their continued partnership during the launch of the program.

SBA resource partners including SCORE mentors, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers are available to provide entities with individual guidance on their applications. Applicants can find a local resource partner via SBA’s website or via a ZIP code.

The West Michigan Region of the Michigan Small Business Development Center can provide help to organizations in Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa counties.

Julie Oldham, business growth consultant with the Michigan Small Business Development Center in Detroit, said venues and operators should gather their documents now so they are ready to apply when the portal reopens.

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