Shuttered Venue Operators Grants Will Arrive in May

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A person wearing a face covering walks past The Roxy nightclub and music venue, closed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, on May 15, 2020.

Independent venues across the U.S. should expect the first round of Shuttered Venue Operators Grant funds to arrive in May, a representative for the Small Business Administration tells Billboard.

After a nearly three-week delay, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant reopened its application portal on Monday, allowing independent venues, promoters and other live music entities to apply for up to $10 million in federal relief. The SVOG was signed into law at the end of December through former-president Trump's second stimulus package and is set to provide more than $16 billion in much needed funding to businesses that have been entirely closed or severely reduced in operations for more than a year.

"Yes, the website worked, but the industry is still desperate and in need support now to survive. It’s been four and a half months since Congress came together on a bipartisan basis for emergency relief to save our stages," says National Independent Venue Association board member Audrey Fix Schaefer. "NIVA members applied for SVOG as soon as the portal reopened, but there's been no communication from the SBA, and no applications processed. We’re totally hamstrung until this money goes out because we can't rehire, book events, or put shows on sale. We need these applications reviewed and grants awarded ASAP. To give perspective, [Paycheck Protection Program] was funded in two days."

While the SBA was able to distribute PPP loans soon after the CARES Act passed in March 2020, those were handled by delegated bankers, and the venue grants program is a "different animal," SBA regional communications director Andrea Roebker told Billboard in March 2021, noting that this is the first time the department has created a grant process focused on for-profit entities.

According to the SBA, 17,356 applications were received in the first 24 hours of the portal’s reopening. Of the more than 17,000 applications, 9,472 had been started and 7,884 had been submitted as of Tuesday. A representative for the SBA has assured Billboard that "SVOG application review began immediately."

"It's been a long time coming for all of us in the live entertainment business, especially for us independents -- many of whom have been financially gasping for air, said Wayne Forte, National Independent Talent Organization executive board member and Entourage Talent owner, in a statement. "We at NITO have been waiting patiently, with the knowledge that the SBA has been under an inordinate amount of pressure from all sides and that there were some intrinsic programming flaws. We feel that the extra time taken to rectify those issues made for a much smoother and efficient application experience. Now our hope is that it will be rewarding to us as well."