Finally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is about to open the application portal for the long-awaited Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program, which is designed to help entertainment venues and cultural institutions weather the pandemic shut-downs.
On December 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), which was the second of three large COVID-19 relief acts. Section 324 authorizes the SBA to make grants to eligible performing arts and cultural organizations who demonstrate a 25 percent reduction in revenues.
CAA added $15 billion to the grant fund and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) signed into law on March 11, 2021 adds another $1.25 billion. Two billion is set aside for organizations with fewer than 50 employees.
The relief comes after an intense lobbying effort last summer called Save Our Stages, spearheaded by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). The SVO grant program is the “largest public rescue of the arts in U.S. history,” according to the Washington Post. This sector is estimated to employ 5.1 million people.
For organizations in operation on January 1, 2019, the grant amount is 45 percent of an organization’s gross earned revenue, up to $10 million.
The grant money must be used on specified expenses, including payroll costs, rent, utilities, personal protective equipment, independent contractors (with limits), ordinary business costs, administrative costs, insurance, and advertising.
Eligible organizations include:
- Live venue operators or promoters
- Theatrical producers
- Live performing arts organization operators
- Relevant museum operators, zoos and aquariums who meet specific criteria
- Motion picture theater operators
- Talent representatives
As of this posting, the SBA SVO grant portal is expected to open April 8, 2021. In the first 14 days that the portal is open, grants will be awarded to organizations with 90 percent or greater revenue loss between April and December 2020. The next 14 days, organizations that have lost 70 percent or more revenue loss may apply. On the 29th day, all others may apply.
The ARPA legislation allows venue operators to apply for a PPP loan as well as apply for an SVO grant. The amount of the SVO grant will be reduced by any PPP loan amount.
Applicants are encouraged to get their documents ready so they can apply as soon as they are eligible. A preliminary application checklist, eligibility requirements, and FAQs are available on the SBA web site. The specific SBA web page on SVOG starts here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/shuttered-venue-operators-grant
If you have questions about this program or need assistance calculating your costs, preparing your packet, or tracking eligible expenses, please feel free to reach out any time.