The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) is calling upon the Small Business Administration (SBA) to release the $16.1 billion in funds earmarked for Shuttered Venue Operators Grants. The SBA has missed deadline after deadline and missed another deadline yesterday, June 9th, to deliver grants to those businesses suffering 90% or more losses and to begin making grants to the second tier of businesses suffering 70% or more losses.
According to Billboard, only 1% of SVOG applicants of the over 12,000 applicants have received grants award notices so far. There have been a litany of delays and errors, including the website that wasn’t functioning when it launched, plus the agency had told various trade groups it needed to familiarize itself with the industry to better understand the grant requests.
According to the NIVA, there are more than 4,910 small business owners in the first priority period, those with the greatest need (90% or more losses), and an additional 10,000 independent businesses that fall into the second (70% or more losses) and third priority periods.
Despite COVID restrictions easing with cases falling and vaccination rates rising, many operators still need the cash to pay back rent, hire staff and get their businesses ready for bands and customers. That doesn’t happen with a snap of a finger or free of charge.
“The pandemic is easing, capacity restrictions on movie theaters are being lifted, major movies are being widely released, but hundreds of movie theater companies cannot open until they have rehired their employees, paid their vendors and their rent,” said National Association of Theatre Owners President and CEO John Fithian in a press release. “The SBA is actively damaging the companies they were supposed to help. That must end now.”
There is hope that the money will come soon, but it just isn’t coming soon enough.
“We couldn’t be more grateful that Congress saw fit to provide $16 billion to Save Our Stages, but this untenable wait for the emergency relief has been torturous and damaging to our industry, our employees, and our communities,” said NIVA Executive Director Rev. Moose in a statement. “With the changes made by the White House and our Congressional Champions, we are hopeful that the SBA will award the grant funds without any further delay.”