UPDATED: More than four months after the $16 billion #SaveOurStages act was signed into law, and more than two weeks after the website through which venues could apply for federal aid launched and immediately crashed, the Small Business Administration says it will reopen Monday, April 26 at 12 p.m. ET — not Saturday, as previously scheduled. The SBA moved the date after what it politely described as “stakeholder feedback” about reopening on a Saturday.
Independent music venues and theaters in the U.S., which have been mostly shuttered for 13 months now, greeted the news with a combination of relief, deep cynicism and annoyance that it’s happening on a weekend. But because the money will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis — and is likely to go quickly — there is little choice in the matter.
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The SBA’s latest message reads: In response to stakeholder feedback about reopening the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application this weekend, the application portal will now reopen on Monday, April 26 at 12pm ET. It is SBA’s top priority to deliver on the promise and commitment to provide economic lifelines to these hardest-hit venues as soon as possible. Yet, we understand the challenges they would have experienced with a weekend opening 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.”
Its message from earlier Friday reads in part:
While working with vendors to fix technology issues that occurred with the April 8 initial opening, the SBA identified and resolved other concerns and enhanced the applicant experience with the portal. The following updates have been made:
Clarifying and making program documentation more user-friendly;
Improving application portal security mechanisms;
Adding an industry-standard waiting room technology to address the high interest in the program and provide an orderly application process for fair and smooth performance; and
Updating application features, including: a new revenue chart, the ability to upload multiple attachments, and an improved application flow to match the eligible entity types and their respective required documentation.
In preparation for the application portal reopening, the SBA recommends eligible applicants take the following actions:
Register on the portal in advance. Applicants will need a smartphone and a multi-factor authenticator app to register and apply;
Prepare required documentation, per the Application Checklist.
SBA’s collaboration with several live venue, cultural and related industry organizations has been vital to the agency’s understanding of the user experience for potential SVOG applicants, and the SBA will continue to partner with them through the application and grant awarding processes.
On Friday, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) said it supports the decision to move the reopening date; it issued the following statement earlier on Friday:
The National Independent Venue Association is grateful that the Small Business Administration will reopen the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) application portal tomorrow at 12pm ET, as we have been advocating for emergency relief for thousands of small businesses that have had no revenue for 13 months and cannot wait any longer.
“Simply put, this is emergency relief that can’t come too soon,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, NIVA board member and communications director. “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 percent 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 Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (fka Save Our Stages Act) earned extensive bipartisan support and was signed into law December 27, 2020. Without SVOG, 90 percent of NIVA members said they would be forced to shutter forever, creating a mass collapse of the industry.
Earlier this week, multiple senators and congresspeople sent a letter to SBA chief Isabella Guzman calling for the site to be reopened as soon as possible, and the SBA said on social media that it hoped to relaunch by the end of this week. At least on paper, they’re hitting that mark, although as of Friday morning there were no details on what time the site will reopen (the agency said it will be announced later in the day).
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