Concert Halls Receive Interim Good News on Government Funding

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Five months after the federal government passed the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) to help independent venue owners, promoters and other small live music companies who have been sleeping during the pandemic, applicants are finally starting to receive notice of grant approval. Grant approval 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 have obtained approval for their grants. Several members of the close-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 say they only received an email from the Small Business Administration (SBA) on Friday morning 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 even 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 distributing funds, it still hasn’t given a specific time frame for when applicants will get their grants approved.

“In accordance with the federal grant process, once approved applicants have received the award notice, they must return signed documentation acknowledging receipt of acceptance,” the agency added in a statement. “Once the SBA receives the required signed documentation, 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 start of the health crisis. After months of NIVA advocacy, Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn introduced the Save Our Stages law 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 have 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 awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, but the SBA has said it does not expect to run out of funds.

However, the sites’ anticipation for the funds slowly turned into anxiety as they faced several speed bumps during their long wait. While SVOG was adopted 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, accumulating more and more more debt every month of waiting.

After all the troubles, 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 delay of SVOG, 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 a large group in the first priority, second and 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 extensive review candidate by candidate. We’ve started providing funds, we’ve been communicating with stakeholders… We’re still reviewing.

Tyrus Joseforsky, owner of independent concert and festival promoter Flight Levelz Entertainment in Indiana, received his notice of approval Thursday afternoon and was told on Friday that the first installment of his funds had been disbursed. He has not yet received the money but is expecting it in the next working days. It’s the first positive step forward he’s seen since the grant was enacted, and Joseforsky says knowing his grant has been approved is a sigh of relief. “For a year, we were just in a waiting pattern. We had no income and I cut everything in the budget, ”he says. “For the first time in a long time, it feels 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 just didn’t expect it anymore.

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