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Shuttered Venue Grant Applications Are Finally Up and Running

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Live music venue The Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles on April 8, 2020.

After months of waiting and weeks of delays, more than 17,000 independent venues and other business owners have started the application process since Monday's portal relaunch.

The Small Business Administration successfully reopened Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal on Monday after failed launch on April 8. According to the SBA, 17,356 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. 

“We’re grateful that the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal successfully opened yesterday and that thousands of businesses have applied so far,” said the National Independent Venue Association in a statement sent to Billboard. “These grants will allow eligible entities to pay off mountains of debt incurred over the last 13 months of being closed with nearly all revenue lost, as well as fund reopening efforts -- including saving jobs and hiring staff -- when it's safe to do so. It’s imperative that the United States has an ecosystem of live venues for music and arts, serving as integral parts of our culture and our communities, boosting the local businesses that surround them.” 

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant was signed into law Dec. 27 as part of a $900 billion COVID relief legislation package, pledging $15 billion to independent venues, promoters, theaters and other organizations. Then, building the infrastructure to process applications took months for the SBA to complete. Finally, the grant portal was scheduled to open on April 8, but technical issues delayed the reopening for another two weeks as the SBA discovered, tested and resolved the problems.  

When the portal reopened Monday, applicants took to the SBA’s Twitter stating they were in a queue of thousands while others said they were able to submit in 20 minutes. This time around, the SBA provided a call center -- at 1-800-659-2955 -- to help struggling applicants through any issues. The line is still open and application portal remains open 24 hours. Those applying now should be able to enter the portal within minutes.  

"That was harrowing. From April 8 to April 26, we were all swinging from a rope. Daily, a thread would break and finally, down to the very end… we made it. We got through. We saw the endpoint of all we have worked toward this past year,"  said High Road Touring founder National Independent Talent Organization executive board member Frank Riley. "Once again, the camaraderie and support we have offered each other was manifest throughout the day, either on emails or by text, or just shouting out the window. Now, we all have to wait for the process to make its way through the SBA system and continue to hope for the best."

The SVOG program is designed to help those venues who faced the most hardship in 2020 first. Applicants who can show they lost 90% or more of their revenue in 2020 will receive funding in the first 14 days of awards being handed out. The 14 days following the first round will see grants handed out to venues that lost 70% or more of their revenue in 2020.  

“The SBA not only had to take a crash course on the independent music business during a global pandemic (with all of its nuances and intricacies), but they were also simultaneously badgered by hundreds of congressional leaders,” says Nadia Prescher, NITO executive board member and Madison House co-founder. “Yes, they made some missteps, but in the end, the SBA and its SVOG committee took the time to fix the issues and the process Monday accomplished the job at hand...but it’s not over. We still need the approval process to be a swift one, as people are neck deep, water rising, hands in the air, reaching for SBA life preservers.” 

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