A $16 billion federal program designed to help performance venues and museums closed due to COVID-19 that was supposed to debut more than a week ago has yet to go live, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) briefly opened the program April 8 but closed it without taking any applications amid concerns it wasn’t up to the task of fielding an onslaught of applications, according to WSJ.
“We know this funding is urgently needed now and are doing all we can to reopen with the greatest amount of certainty as possible,” an SBA spokeswoman said, per WSJ.
The SBA’s website for the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant program states: “Over the next few days, our tech team and vendors remain focused on testing the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal; we aim to reopen the portal by the end of the week of April 18, 2021. As soon as the exact date is confirmed, we will provide advance notice. Also, we are updating the applicant user guide and FAQs to further clarify information and will post those here in advance of the application portal opening.”
According to the SBA, eligible recipients of the Shuttered Venues grants will receive 45 percent of pre-COVID-19 annual revenue, with any operation’s grant capped at $10 million. Of the $16 billion in total funds, $2 billion is reserved for businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
WSJ quoted Stephen Tyler, a managing partner at Oklahoma’s 1,000-seat Tower Theatere, as having said: “Every day, every hour that ticks by is one day closer to death, and that is the case for many venues across the country. If this goes on long enough, it is absolutely realistic that this could crush this whole segment of the industry. Candidly, we’re right at the end.”
According to WSJ, federal data indicates arts organizations employed 708,000 fewer people in March than they employed in February 2020.