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Need Aid For Your Shuttered Venue? End Of May Is The Earliest You Might Get It

Live-event spaces, like the Sound Nightclub in Los Angeles, have been waiting months for emergency relief.
Mario Tama
Getty Images
Live-event spaces, like the Sound Nightclub in Los Angeles, have been waiting months for emergency relief.

Owners of live-music venues, theaters, museums and other businesses covered under the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, or SVOG, can expect to see money by the end of May. This is according to an update from the Small Business Administration, which has been handling the SVOG program's bumpy rollout.

An SBA spokesperson said in an email that since the portal to apply for these grants opened a week ago, 10,300 applications have been submitted (another 12,000 have been started but not completed). The vast majority of those applications were from "Live venue operators or promoters," followed by performing arts organizations and then movie theaters.

The SBA has been reviewing applications and said in a statement that "applicants will receive notice of awards this month," with disbursement by the end of May if the applicant responds in a "timely manner to the notice of award."

The SVOG program is a $16 billion emergency relief program that then-President Donald Trump signed into law in late December 2020. It was a bipartisan effort to get aid money to struggling music venues and other arts and live-event spaces that have been hit hard by the coronavirus struggles. But for an emergency relief program, it has taken months to get money in the hands of business owners holding off landlords, insurance companies and other creditors. Those owners spent early 2021 waiting on an official announcement of when they could apply for the grant money while compiling any documents and paperwork they thought they might need. Then once the application site was up and running, it crashed and was closed.

Even as large festivals roll out throughout the U.S. and bands announce tours for later in the year, many small live-event spaces are still at risk of closing. The National Independent Venue Association, one of the most vocal groups lobbying for support for live-music venues, has long stated that 90% of its members would be forced to close without any aid — which would hurt nearby bars, restaurants and shops, not to mention the large apparatus that is the live touring-arts industry.

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Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.
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