Back in late December, the concert industry breathed an enormous collective sigh of relief with the passing of the Save Our Stages Act as part of a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package through both houses of Congress. With $15 billion allocated for non-repayable grants to live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions, this was the potential business-saving lifeboat that independent venue owners across the country had spent much of 2020 begging for after the shutdown of the live events industry in March.
The COVID-19 relief bill promised to provide qualified business with a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) equal to 45% of gross revenue from 2019 with a cap of $10 million per entity, which could be used to pay the operating costs until venues can reopen, possibly later this year.
On paper, this appears to be the saving grace courtesy of the federal government. In reality, however, three months have passed since the passing of the Save Our Stages Act, and venues have yet to receive—or even apply for—the grant money they were assured.
This past Friday (3/19), the Small Business Administration (SBA) confirmed applications for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant will finally become available for affected business owners starting next month on April 8th. The SBA also announced the launch of a splash page for the SVOG application portal in anticipation of opening applications next month.
Although the SBA says it will prioritize venues that have lost 90% of their revenue since last March during the first two weeks of the application process, it remains unclear how long after a business applies for a grant that the money will arrive.
“Help is here for venue operators hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The SBA has worked diligently to build the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program from the ground up to assist and address the diverse eligibility requirements of each type of applicant and we will open for applications on April 8,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said with Friday’s announcement. “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.”
The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) also released a statement in response to the SBA’s announcement on Friday which reads, “We realize this is an enormous undertaking for the SBA and we appreciate everything the agency is doing to ensure this program is administered as Congress intended as expeditiously as possible. The opening can’t come soon enough. The fate of our industry’s survival is dependent on it. To say we have been anxiously awaiting the day when we can apply for this emergency relief is an understatement.”
The SBA will also host an informational webinar to introduce the application process for potential eligible businesses on March 30th from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET.
Until then, inquiring venue owners should click here to register to be informed when the application opens on April 8th. Click here to revisit the SVOG eligibility requirements for small business owners, and here for the preliminary application checklist.
Qualifying applicants are also encouraged to register with the federal government’s required System for Award Management.