Technical issues prevent independent live venues from applying for pandemic grants
The operators of independently owned live venues and movie theaters had been waiting for the day when they could apply for federal grants to help cover pandemic losses. But the excitement quickly turned to frustrations.
The complaints came fuming one after another on Twitter to the head of the Small Business Administration. Operators of independent live venues and movie theaters anxiously trying to apply for a grant, shut out by a government computer system that crashed.
“This is new territory to many, many people. And of course, there is still some ambiguity as far as how far the funds are going to go,” says Rev. Moose of the National Independent Venue Association. “People are in a hurry to be able to make sure their applications get in early.”
As many as 30,000 venues in the United States are eligible for the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant. Thursday was the first day to apply.
“It would make all the difference for us,” says South Orange Performing Arts Center acting executive director Dee Billia.
The venue tried unsuccessfully for hours to apply after losing 60% of its revenue during the pandemic. As a nonprofit, it was able to recover some losses through donations.
“Our community has been very supportive, generous and we are grateful for that,” says Billia. “We’re moving ahead with the application.
But applying proved to be impossible for everyone, and by the late afternoon, the SBA announced it had shut down the portal due to technical problems. It would reopen the portal at a later date. Sixteen billion dollars is at stake in the first come-first served application process.
Helping venues survive is also seen as a way to help communities because they bring in people who spend money in restaurants, bars and shopping.
Venues that were subject to a government-ordered shutdown will now have to wait longer to apply for the government assistance they are hoping for.
In a separate funding measure, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation to provide $15 million in pandemic-related arts funding in New Jersey.