There's Now an Official Date When Venue Owners Can Apply for Government Grants

The Small Business Administration announced that it would start accepting applications for Shuttered Venue Operators Grants on Thursday, April 8th.

The announcement comes nearly three months after the SVOG — which was borne out of the Save Our Stages Act — passed as part of last December’s Covid-19 relief bill. The program promised to provide much-needed aid to live entertainment venues and other entities, such as movie theaters and museums; but those entities have been forced to wait somewhat longer than expected as the SBA set up the grant program.

“Help is here for venue operators hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement. “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 theaters and many more.”

Before the application process opens, the SBA will host a national webinar to walk people through application process. That will take place March 30th from 2:30 to 4 p.m. ET, and registration is open now. Additional information for potential applicants is available on the SBA website as well.

The key reason it’s taken the Small Business Administration so long to launch the SVOG program is because this is the first time the SBA has doled out grants directly to for-profit entities, and has thus been building the program from the ground up. Not only was the agency tasked with ensuring that the program adhered to the law, but that it had guidelines and frauds safeguards in place for all the different entities covered by the SVOG.

While the Small Business Administration is expecting potentially tens of thousands of SVOG applicants, the law has built in priority tiers to ensure those most in need get access to aid first. For the first 14 days starting April 8th, only entities with 90% or greater revenue loss will be able to apply; those with 70% or greater losses can apply during the next 14-day period; and those with 25% or greater losses will be able to apply 28 days after the launch.

Because of these priorities tiers, on top of the overall delays to the program launch, Congress recently amended the SVOG in the American Rescue Plan to add $1.25 billion in funding and allow venue owners to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans as well. The original law forbade entities from applying for both SVOG and PPP, which put some in a tight spot as they tried to figure out which route to take. Now, should a venue take out a PPP loan — which can be used to cover things like rent or payroll — the amount they receive will be reduced from the total they would get from an SVOG. The terms attached to SVOGs are more industry specific, allowing the money to be put towards operational expenses, such as booking acts once it’s safe for concerts to begin again.

“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,” a rep for the National Independent Venue Association said in a statement. “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.”

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