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Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Reaches Milestone, Remains Open to Applications

  • U.S. Small Business Administration announces that its Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program has surpassed 10,000 awardees, with $7.5 billion in grants approved
  • Program was established to provide financial relief to cultural organizations that suffered severe revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Funding remains available, so the SBA is taking new applications and planning to offer supplemental grants beginning on Aug. 23

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The U.S. Small Business Association is celebrating a milestone in its Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program while also issuing a reminder that funding remains available to eligible applicants.

SVOG was set up to assist cultural organizations such as performing arts organizations, live venues, movie theaters, and museums that often suffered prolonged closures and severe revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SBA announced that the number of venues receiving assistance through the program recently surpassed 10,000, with $7.5 billion in awards.

SVOG was dogged by problems in its rollout, including a lengthy setup time and technical errors that forced the application portal to close on the same day it opened. The program was also criticized for the slow pace in the review of applications and approval of awards, although this has accelerated significantly since June 10, when just 100 grants had been awarded.

“After making improvements to the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, the SBA is now delivering money quickly, efficiently and fairly to highly-impacted small businesses and venue operators that are critical to America’s cultural fabric and local economies,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.

SVOG grants are equal to 45 percent of an applicant’s gross earned revenue, up to a maximum of $10 million. Unlike the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, where demand far outstripped funding, applicants had requested an aggregate of just $12 billion of the $16.2 billion available as of the July 26 program report.

For this reason, the SVOG portal remains open to new applications. The SBA recently updated its frequently asked questions to reflect how awardees who received less than they anticipated or applicants who were denied can appeal the decision. Notifications for appeal and award amount reconsideration opportunities are set to begin next week and remain open for two weeks.

In addition, the SBA will allow applicants to pursue supplemental grants beginning on Aug. 23 if funding remains available. Applicants can seek 50 percent of their original award, though their total award as a combination of both the original and supplemental grant still cannot exceed $10 million.

Recipients have been using funds to help balance their budgets, manage debt, and invest in future shows. The SBA highlighted the Downtown Cabaret Theatre Company in Bridgeport as one example of an entity that has benefited from the SVOG program.

“The sheer weight and excitement by the staff and friends when we got that notice of award was great cause for celebration,” said Hugh Hallinan, executive producer of the Downtown Cabaret Theatre. “The grant will enable us to have a more organized and human approach to open up and we can do it at an accelerated rate.”

According to the latest report, the SBA had made a decision on 95 percent of the 15,429 applications it received as of July 26. These included 9,844 applicants who received a notice that they have been approved for an award and 2,718 that have been declined. More than two-thirds of the awards have gone to entities with 10 or fewer employees

The average grant has been $769,000, and $6.3 billion in funds have been disbursed. Most awards (3,485) have gone to live venue operators and promoters, with 2,696 more approved for live performing arts organizations and 1,286 for movie theaters.

A total of 130 applicants in Connecticut have received $97.87 million.

The SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to assist with SVOG applications, and can be reached at 1-800-659-2955 or, for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, 1-800-877-8339. Assistance is also available through SBA partners such as SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and Veterans Business Outreach Centers.

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