Indie News

Federal Grant Portal for Shuttered Venues to Reopen After Disastrous Launch

The Small Business Administration will reopen the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal Monday, April 26th, after a 17-day delay as the agency tried to fix an array of technical problems that spoiled the initial launch. The portal is set to open at 12 p.m. ET.

The SBA is recommending that eligible applicants register on the portal ahead of the launch, review the SVOG’s FAQ page and Applicant User Guide, and prepare all the required documentation as listed on the Application Checklist.

“We recognize the urgency and need to get this program up and running,” Barb Carson, deputy associate administrator of SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance, said in a statement. “With venue operators in danger of closing, every day that passes by is a day that these businesses cannot afford. We remain dedicated to delivering emergency aid as quickly as possible and will begin reviewing the applications on Saturday as they are submitted.”

The agency had originally set Saturday, April 24th to reopen, but moved the date back two days. “It is our top priority to deliver on the promise and commitment to provide economic lifelines to these hardest-hit venues ASAP,” the department wrote on Twitter. “Yet, we understand the challenges a weekend opening would bring and to ensure the greatest number of businesses can apply for these funds, we decided to reschedule. We remain committed to delivering economic aid to this hard-hit sector quickly and efficiently.”

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The National Independent Venue Association, which has been lobbying on behalf of shuttered venues throughout the pandemic, issued a statement as well, with board member and communications director Audrey Fix Schaefer saying, “Simply put, this is emergency relief that can’t come too soon. Every single day that passes small businesses are receiving eviction notices, all the while $16 billion has been waiting for them. This is a lifeline for thousands of independent venues and promoters in big towns and in small communities across the nation. When you’ve had revenue losses of more than 90% and are in fear of going under, having the opportunity to apply for the grant is a relief, no matter what day of the week it is. We’re thankful our members won’t have to wait much longer.”

The SVOG was borne out of the Save Our Stages Act and passed in last year’s Covid-19 stimulus bill, but the program did not launch until April 8th (the SBA has essentially built the program from scratch, having never doled out grants directly to for-profit entities before). That long-awaited launch, however, quickly turned into a disaster as the site likely buckled and crashed under a deluge of applicants (the $16 billion fund is also available to museums, movie theaters, theaters, and more).

The SBA was forced to shut the portal down and keep it closed as they spent the next two weeks working to fix the problem. The SBA also said it used the past two weeks to resolve other concerns such as making the program documentation more user-friendly, improving security measures, and adding “industry-standard waiting room technology” to handle the high volume of applicants. Several application features have also been updated, including a new revenue chart, the ability to upload multiple attachments, and an improved application flow to match eligible entities with their respective requirements.

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