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Source : Pixnio
June 3, 2021
Author : Alex Bustillos
The Shuttered Venue Operators Operators Grant (SVOG) program was passed into law in the December 2020 coronavirus stimulus package, coming as music to the ears of music venue operators after a long period of silence.
The American Rescue Plan Act, President Joe Biden’s March 11, 2021 stimulus package, appropriated an additional $1.25 billion, which brought funding to a total of $16.25 billion, with more than $16 billion allocated for grants.
Days later on March 18 when Isabel Guzman was confirmed as Joe Biden’s head of the Small Business Administration, the SBA press release announcing the development made it clear it was a top priority of hers to “implement critical financial relief for small businesses impacted by the pandemic through the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program, and additional support recently passed in the American Rescue Plan.”
As we recently reported, under the new, Biden-era Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), a little more than three percent of the businesses invited by the SBA to apply for relief have been given relief. The SBA has denied eligible business owners on the basis that they are not United States citizens (they are), that they are dead (they are not), and because they owe child support (they don’t have children.)
Something very similar appears to be happening with the SBA’s SVOG program. The New York Times reported earlier this week on the plight of the owner of two famous New York City music venues: the Bowery Ballroom and the Mercury Lounge. These businesses are cultural behemoths in the independent music scene and host bands from all over the country performing many different genres.
On Wednesday, the SBA informed him that he wasn’t able to get the money because, well, he was dead. The Times reports that the exact same thing happened to the owner of a popular piano bar just outside Washington, DC.
On March 19, one day after Isabel Guzman became the new head of the SBA, the SBA announced triumphantly that “help is here” for venue operators. “The SBA knows these venues are critical to America's economy and understands how hard they've been impacted, as they were among the first to shutter. This vital economic aid will provide a much-needed lifeline for live venues, museums, movie theatres and many more,” Guzman said.
The SBA has released two reports on the program. The first report came on June 1, and the second was released on June 3. As of today, 13,783 businesses have applied for funds, yet only 50 have been awarded grants. Of the $11.4 billion requested so far, just $54.2 million has been given out.
That comes out to just 0.36 percent of applicants approved so far.
And the process appears to be moving very slowly. The June 1st numbers show that at that time, 13,619 grants were applied for and just 31 were given out.
In other words, in the course of two days, the SBA only handed out 19 grants, and meanwhile, 164 new businesses applied for them. It’s clear that the SBA needs more resources to keep up with both the SVOG program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
But they are not blameless; they have had plenty of time to prepare for this. The SBA even hosted their first webinar on the SVOG program on January 14. Applications for grants have been open since April 8.
We can only hope that the SBA ups its game and starts handing out the relief venue operators so desperately need and deserve in the coming weeks.