Business

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Remains Closed to Applicants

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The marquee is seen at the Warfield music venue, which is temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, on April 10, 2020 in San Francisco, Calif.

After more than a year of being forced to shutter their businesses, independent venues and promoters are still awaiting federal support. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant signed into law in December was supposed to begin accepting applications on April 8, but has been stalled indefinitely due to technical glitches.

The SVOG program being administered by the Small Business Administration was set to open the application process last Thursday so that it could award up to $10 million to struggling entities by the end of the month. More than four days later, the SBA has confirmed that it has not accepted any applications thus far. Submissions will be reviewed on a first-come-first-served basis, while first prioritizing venues that have lost 90% or more of their revenue for the first 14 days. (Then, venues that have lost 70% or more of their revenue will be considered for the next 14 days, followed by venues that lost a minimum of 25% of their revenue.)

"So many live venues and related businesses have been impacted by this pandemic and we want to ensure relief is delivered as quickly and equitably as possible," the SBA said in a statement on April 9. "We will provide further updates as we receive them and appreciate your patience." 

The SBA has not announced a date for reopening the grant portal and did not respond to Billboard’s request for comment on whether the delay in opening applications will result in a delay in fund distribution.

"While the frustration among SVOG applicants is palpable and understandable, we recognize the massive undertaking the SBA has committed to in the interest of helping our small businesses," said Madison House co-founder and National Independent Talent Organization executive board member Nadia Prescher in a statement. "This past year has left us all taking on new tasks in unfamiliar territory that we had never anticipated, and the SBA is no exception to this struggle. The road to this grant opening has been paved with mutual education, and we trust in the SBA to correct these issues as the survival of our businesses depend fully on the proper execution of this process."

The SBA’s venue grant website suffered technological issues from the onset last week when it was set to open applications at 12 p.m. EST on Thursday. First the link was inaccessible, and then users were unable to upload necessary application documentof any kind to the portal 

Around 4 p.m. Thursdaythe SBA released a statement saying it would be shutting down the portal to address the technical issues and to ensure fair and equal access once reopened.” The administration added that the decision was “not made lightly” given how desperately funding is needed for these businesses.  

The SBA said on Friday that it has identified the technical issues and is working to address them. Additionally, the administration has promised to give applicants as much advanced notice as possible before reopening the grant portal. 

We realize this is an enormous undertaking for the SBA and we appreciate everything the agency is doing to ensure this program is administered as Congress intended as expeditiously as possible. The opening can’t come soon enough,” said the National Independent Venue Association in statement. “The fate of our industry’s survival is dependent on it. To say we have been anxiously awaiting the day we when can apply for this emergency relief is an understatement.” 

On Friday, NITO offered re-opening adjustments for the SBA suggesting the administration only allow businesses that lost 90% or more of their revenue in 2020 to apply in the first 14-day window so alleviate some of the site congestion. The talent organization also asked the SBA to consider a seven-day window for rejected submissions to allow applicants the opportunity to correct errors or supplement their application with additional documents. 

While we were all extremely disappointed at the difficulties suffered by all of the folks under the SVOG umbrella, we look forward to a solid and productive re-opening once these issues are resolved,” said High Road Touring founder and NITO president Frank Riley in a statement. "There is a huge pressure to reopen the portal now -- political, economic and social -- but to risk a repeat of what happened April 8 would only compound all of our problemsWe need to give the SBA, and the implementation of this very new, and innovative program of assistance to all of the organizations that could benefit from the SVOG, the time to rectify these issues, and then hope for as smooth and productive a roll out as soon as possible.