The Small Business Administration is promising more clarity this week around a new federal grant program to help live event venues devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Indoor event spaces from Broadway theaters to rock clubs have been closed for the better part of a year, with little indication that they’ll be able to safely reopen anytime soon.
In December, the latest COVID-19 stimulus package allocated $15 billion to help these spaces avoid permanent closure, and venue owners have been eagerly waiting for additional details about how and when the funds will be disbursed, and who is eligible to apply. Now the SBA says it will provide some of those coveted details in a webinar on Thursday afternoon.
Event spaces had been lobbying heavily for some kind of federal relief through a campaign called “Save Our Stages,” spearheaded by a group of 3,000 independent venues. Many venues for live events did not qualify for other forms of relief—such as the Paycheck Protection Program loans aimed at maintaining payroll—because they were not operational during the shutdowns.
Save Our Stages found bipartisan support in Congress and was incorporated into the new relief package in the form of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which authorizes the SBA to make grants of up to $10 million apiece for theaters, performing arts venues, movie theaters, and other event spaces.
If history is any guide, the distribution of these grants is likely to be chaotic and full of bureaucratic horror stories. Thursday’s webinar is “introductory,” the SBA says, and will help venue owners prepare themselves for a more seamless application process. You can learn more about it and sign up to attend here.