SBA SVOG grant portal is broken, and theaters are desperate

Greater than a yr into the pandemic and virtually 4 months after Congress licensed $16 billion in federal assist, theater house owners are nonetheless unable to entry a penny from the very important grant program that was meant to maintain them afloat.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program was alleged to open earlier this month, but it surely was abruptly halted by the Small Enterprise Administration after technical difficulties arose with its on-line portal. This system, which authorizes grants of as much as $10 million to stay occasion areas—together with Broadway theaters, cinemas, museums, and music venues—has but to just accept a single utility.

Eleven days after glitches derailed the rollout, theater house owners say they’re on the finish of their ropes.

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“At this level the delay is devastating, because the small companies that Congress supposed to avoid wasting are going below as they watch for the emergency reduction,” Audrey Repair Schaefer, board member for the Nationwide Unbiased Venue Affiliation (NIVA), informed Quick Firm in an e-mail. “Extra companies are going to must name it quits as a result of they can’t maintain out any longer, all of the whereas $16 billion is ready to avoid wasting them.”

NIVA, a coalition of greater than 3,000 venues, was shaped final yr only some weeks after COVID-19 sparked theater shutdowns throughout the nation. Via the Save Our Levels marketing campaign, the group lobbied lawmakers for federal assist directed particularly on the live-events trade and in the end discovered bipartisan help. The SVOG program was licensed with the December stimulus bundle.

However the cash is not doing anybody any good if nobody can apply to entry it. In a collection of tweets final week, the SBA stated it was persevering with to check the functions portal and that it hoped to have it up and working by the top of subsequent week.

Repair Schaefer stated tough guesses are not sufficient. For much too many venues, every day that goes by is one other day nearer to everlasting closure. “The SBA has supplied no timeline or estimate of when the portal will reopen and when the desperately wanted lifeline of grants will circulate to avoid wasting our phases,” she stated. “We’re struggling in limbo.”

We’ve reached out to the SBA for additional remark and will replace this publish if we hear again.