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Less than 1% of independent venues have received a “save our feet” pandemic relief fund

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It’s been almost six months to Congress Passed $16.1 billion save our stage act In law, however, this does not mean that independent locations across the country are able to access any of those funds. According to a coalition of advocacy groups for the country’s various independent arts operators, fewer than 100 of the more than 14,000 who applied have actually received any funding.

accordingly for a report The Small Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) issued this week by the loan disbursement Small Business Administration has received 14,020 applications requesting funding totaling $11.4 billion. Of them, there are 4,661 currently under review, which are considered most in need – places that have lost 90% or more of their revenue during the pandemic – as part of the first priority period.

The SBA was supposed to review all those 4,661 priority applications as of last Wednesday, but only 90 of those have been awarded funds, and only 48 of those 90 are live venues. According to the report, the government has released $127 million of that $11.4 billion pot.

The SVOG program provides eligible movie theaters, live venue operators and promoters, talent representatives, and performing arts organizations with grants equal to 45% of their 2019 gross earned revenue, up to a maximum of $10 million.

According to the National Independent Venue Association, the SBA’s “repeated errors and delays endanger the businesses and organizations the program was designed to help.”

In a letter to Congress this week, NIVA wrote, “We’ve passed our breaking point. We can’t last any longer. We want to participate in America’s economic recovery, but our places are going to help our businesses reopen.” Can’t afford to open. … The SBA, whose sole purpose is to help small businesses, is demonstrating a lack of urgency and ability to execute this much-needed emergency relief program. The SBA’s delay is really our Small businesses are driving more — all while $16 billion in emergency funding awaits to be administered.”

Advocacy groups say it’s not a matter of resources: More than 500 reviewers have been assigned to the program, and submitted if they reviewed one application per day since the application portal opened in April. Around 14,000 applications could have been processed so far.

“We couldn’t be more grateful that Congress saw it appropriate to provide $16 billion to save our feet, but this unbearable wait for emergency relief has been harrowing and damaging to our industry, our employees, and our communities.” ,” NIVA board member and communications director Audrey Fix Schaefer told Gothamist.

The program has been plagued by a number of technical problems since its inception: the SVOG application portal opened on 8 April, crashed immediately, and closed. It was not reopened until 26 April.

In addition, many venue owners have run into issues with 4506-T tax forms and “death match files”—some owners receiving notices from the SBA that they were dead and ineligible for funds despite being very much alive.

Kambri Crew, owner qed astoria And a member of NIVA’s New York chapter told Gothamist that the process added a new layer of tension to an already exhausting period.

“I had to send Spotlight purchase receipts when QED first opened it to prove it was a venue,” she said of the process, which involved an exorbitant amount of paperwork to prove her place was genuine. “You can even, I don’t know, Google? You have to do a lot of work to create a fake site. We obviously have online reviews. It shouldn’t be that hard, it’s an emergency.”

Crews are particularly disappointed because pandemic programs for other industries, such as the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, have been able to move quickly to help people while locations remain in limbo. “While we waited the restaurant fund was approved, funded, and ran out of money. I know they needed help too, but they were allowed to open—we had to wait 13 months. So it’s driving, absolutely insane.”

“We haven’t received any notices yet and we look forward to hearing from the SBA on the progress of our application,” Doreen Cugno, president and CEO of St. George’s Theater on Staten Island, told Gothamist. Her schedule has seen more than 130 shows canceled or postponed since it closed on March 12, 2020, and won’t officially reopen until October.

Cugno said he’s heard the SBA has begun responding to complaints, which gives him reason for optimism.

Sources tell Gothamist that behind-the-scenes changes have already begun: The person leading SVOG has been replaced by those who led the restaurant revitalization fund, and they are adding more application reviewers to the team. Officials have promised that they are dealing with disturbances that have slowed down the process. And insiders expect an immediate increase in approvals from next week.

“We are very fortunate to have Senator Schumer as our champion because he and his office are fully engaged in efforts to get emergency funding flowing,” said NIVA’s Fix Schaefer. “They understand that the situation is desperate and they are on it.”

But in the meantime, bosses like Crew aren’t out of the woods just yet. she is waiting to see if a new bill, sponsored by state Senator Michael Gianaris, will pass COVID guidelines to protect personal liability in the event of the default of certain commercial leases in New York City. And she is trying to go ahead with the reopening of her club despite all the uncertainties.

“I feel like going to someone’s party and taking a big dump on the floor,” she said. “I’m about to welcome people into this fun comedy space, and people are saying they’re so happy QED survived, and I’m like, Survived? I’m still in it, we’re left with nothing. We Still spilling water.”

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