The federal government’s $ 16 billion Aid Fund for Live Music Rooms and Other Cultural Establishments was supposed to be taking applications on Thursday (April 8), but the Small Business Administration shut down the system after a mistake prevented applications from being processed, like The New York Times reports. The setback for the Shuttered Venue Operator Grant, as the program is called – part of the Save Our Stages Act – left the venue owners concerned and angry.
“This is an absolute disaster,” tweeted C’mon Everybody Brooklyn Club owner Eric Sosa at the Small Business Administration that oversees the SVOG. A spokesman for the agency told the Times: “Despite several successful tests of the application process, technical problems arose.”
The SBA had similar issues a year ago with the Paycheck Protection Program, which it is also running. As The Times notes, the agency’s systems crashed when that initiative took applications and a second set of funds went online. Venue owners expressed particular frustration as the SVOG application process is first come, first served. This means venues that apply earlier are more likely to receive relief before the funds are used up.
The program was fraught with difficulties even before the first day of application. Last night (April 7), the SBA published a 58-page guide for applicants, which was only published in a revised form a few minutes before the application portal went live on Thursday. An agency spokesman speaking to the Times quoted “some last-minute system changes”.
The SBA’s Inspector General issued a warning that morning that the portal would be opened soon and indicated “serious concerns” about the agency’s ability to oversee the SVOG program. The current audit schedule looks like “billions of dollars in possible misuse of funds,” according to the Inspector General’s report.
The SVOG program was adopted in December 2020 after months of campaigns under the leadership of the now one-year National Independent Venue Association. In late February, lawmakers wrote to the SBA questioning the delay in providing funds to venues.
Read Pitchforks “36 of the Best Live Music Venues for Survival and What’s Next”.