Touring

Shuttered Venue Operators Grants Are Late. Here's When the SBA Says They'll Arrive

Globe Theatre
Brian Guido

Globe Theatre photographed on March 17, 2020 in Los Angeles.

The funds were supposed to start rolling out last week.

Independent venues are still awaiting federal grants approved five months ago to help their struggling businesses, and even after funds were supposed to start rolling out last week they haven't arrived yet. 

The Small Business Administration -- which is facilitating the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants -- said on May 10 that they “expected to start awarding funds to venues, promoters, talent agencies and other live entertainment businesses last week. Now that timeline has been pushed back again. 

“The SBA is committed to quickly and efficiently delivering this pandemic relief to help our theatres, music venues, and more get the help they need,” said the SBA in a statement provided to Billboard. “While there continues to be some fine-tuning of technical components of the program, we expect SVOG Priority 1 (90% revenue loss) awards to tentatively begin [the week of May 24], kicking off a 14-day priority period. We will then move on to begin processing Priority 2 awards.” 

In a call with SVOG stakeholders on Monday (May 24), the SBA stated that it intend to distribute the first round of awards by the end of May. SVOG awards will come from the $16 billion in federal funding signed into law on Dec. 27 through the second stimulus package; venues, promoters, talent agencies and other cultural institutions are eligible to receive up to $10 million based on their 2020 revenue loss. The grant program was built from scratch by the SBA, an administration that had never solely distributed funds to for-profit entities.  

“No doubt there have been significant hurdles in this program. We remain frustrated. It’s been a trying task to ask NITO membership to be patient and attempt to remain calm. A very long five months have come and gone since long-awaited business-saving legislation passed at the end of December 2020,” says National Independent Talent Organization vp Nadia Prescher. “Technical difficulties have only added to the stressful uncertainty that SVOG applicants are feeling. However, those assigned to the SVOG at the SBA have made promises that award notices will begin by the end of May. On the call today, the SBA again restated their commitment to this deadline and we are attempting to remain hopeful.”

Independent venues have endured more than one setback when it comes to obtaining the federal funding the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and others have been fighting for since July 2020. The SBA originally attempted to open applications for the grants on April 8, but the online portal suffered technical difficulties. On April 26, more than two weeks after the failed start, venues were finally able to apply.  

"The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant was signed into law five months ago. It’s been one month since applications were submitted, yet not a single application has been approved nor a single dollar of this emergency relief has been granted to businesses that have been completely without revenue for more than 14 months,” says NIVA board member Audrey Fix Schaefer. “Venues are desperate for this relief as eviction notices are coming at a faster pace. And those trying to reopen are desperate because they cannot rehire employees or put deposits on bands without this money. These small businesses are going under while $16 billion is waiting for them. The delay in delivering funding is causing the exact opposite effect of the intended bill to save venues.” 

If funding goes out by the end of May as the SBA has stated, the first 14 days of awards will go to Priority 1 applicants who lost 90% or more of their revenue from April to December 2020. Days 14-28 of awarding grants will go to Priority 2 businesses who lost 70% or more of their revenue from April to December 2020. After the first 28 days, entities that lost 25% or more of their revenue in the same time period will begin to receive the aid. At this rate, those businesses may not receive funds until July.  

As of last week, just over 12,200 SVOG applications had been submitted, according to the SBA. Out of that number, more than 9,250 are live music businesses.