Five months after the federal government passed the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) to help independent venue owners, promoters and other small live music businesses that were dormant during the pandemic, applicants are finally starting to receive grant approval notices. Getting a grant approved means sites still have to wait to get their money back, but it’s a small sign of progress after months of waiting and uncertainty.
It is not known how many applicants received their grant. Several members of the tight-knit National Independent Venue Association recount Rolling stone they had only heard of a few candidates receiving approval notices if they had heard anything. Some of these members claim they only received an email Friday morning from the Small Business Administration (SBA) confirming their completed application was under review, while others say they still haven’t had communication with the SBA.
In a statement, the SBA said Rolling stone that if the administration started notifying applicants of their grants on Wednesday, it would “increase the rate of notification over the next few days.” And while the SBA has started approving applications and says it has started dispersing funds, it still hasn’t given a specific time frame for applicants to get their grants approved.
“Under the federal grant process, once approved applicants receive the award notice, they must return signed documents confirming their acceptance,” the agency added in a statement. “As soon as the ASB receives the required signed documents, funds will be disbursed as quickly as possible to get our live entertainment venues back on track.”
The troubled sites have long awaited federal aid for their businesses since the onset of the health crisis. After months of NIVA advocacy, Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn introduced the Save Our Stages Act last June. It was adopted in December as part of the world’s largest coronavirus relief program, providing $ 15 billion in funding to the sites. The Biden administration’s US bailout has added an additional $ 1.25 billion to the subsidy program for more than $ 16 billion available. Sites that had lost at least 90 percent of their revenue get first priority for funds in the first two weeks of disbursement before the SBA awards other applicants. Grants are given on a first-come, first-served basis, but the SBA has said it does not expect to run out of funds.
The sites’ anticipation for the funds slowly turned into anxiety as they faced several slowdowns during their long wait. While SVOG passed in late December, the SBA only launched the SVOG app on April 8 and quickly shut it down for technical issues. The portal only reopened at the end of April, and sites spent most of May waiting for updates with little communication from the agency, racking up more debt. every month they waited.
After all these questions, SBA director Isabella Guzman testified Wednesday at a government hearing titled The Pandemic Response and the Small Business Economy: An Update from the US Small Business Administration concerning the SVOG delay, where she recalled the technical problems of the application as well as the complexity of the program itself given the different types of entities and aids that make up the application pool.
Guzman told the Senate during the hearing that the SBA started sending approvals and funds this week, adding that the agency received around 13,000 requests for $ 11 billion in funding.
“With the sites closed, we encouraged everyone to apply up front. We have an important group in both the first priority, the second and the third priority. We are dealing with these requests as quickly as possible, ”Guzman said at the hearing. “It’s a very complex program by law with various types of entities that has created various eligibility requirements along the way and requires intensive review of applicants by applicants. We have started to allocate funds, we have been in communication with stakeholders… We are still under review. “
Tyrus Joseforsky, independent concert owner and promoter of the Flight Levelz Entertainment festival in Indiana, received his approval notice Thursday afternoon and was told on Friday that the first round of his funds had been disbursed. He has not yet received the money, but is expecting it in the next few working days. It’s the first positive step forward he’s seen since the grant was passed, and Joseforsky says knowing his grant has been approved is a sigh of relief. “For a year, we were just on hold. We had no income and I cut everything from the budget, ”he says. “For the first time in a long time, I feel like we’re finally going to take a break.”
But the slow rollout also left him skeptical. After five months of waiting with little updating, it is still bracing for further complications. “I’m still holding my breath. It took six months for this to happen, and when you have to wait that long, you lose so much confidence. It got to the point where I never expected it anymore.