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.”