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‘Help is here’ for live venues hit hard by COVID-19

Updated March 19, 2021 - 8:11 pm

Federal dollars are on the way to provide much-needed targeted relief for live entertainment venues — including those in Las Vegas — that have been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, the U.S. Small Business Administration launched a new website portal for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program — aimed primarily at live venue operators, movie theaters, talent representatives, and live performing arts organizations — that will begin accepting applications on April 8.

SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, who was confirmed Tuesday as the agency’s 27th leader, said federal relief is coming.

“Help is here for venue operators hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said in a news release Friday. “The SBA knows these venues are critical to America’s economy and understands how hard they’ve been impacted, as they were among the first to shutter. This vital economic aid will provide a much-needed lifeline for live venues, museums, movie theatres and many more.”

The National Independent Venue Association, an organization that was formed at the onset of the pandemic and led the #SaveOurStages campaign and lobbying effort for federal relief for venue operators, said it appreciates the SBA is moving as quickly as possible.

“We realize this is an enormous undertaking for the SBA and we appreciate everything the agency is doing to ensure this program is administered as Congress intended as expeditiously as possible,” Audrey Fix Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the association, said in a statement Friday to the Review-Journal. “The opening can’t come soon enough. The fate of our industry’s survival is dependent on it. To say we have been anxiously awaiting the day when we can apply for this emergency relief is an understatement.”

The $16.25 billion program was initially established as part of the $900 billion stimulus package signed into law in December, which earmarked $15 billion, and later amended by the recent passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan with an additional $1.25 billion.

Biden’s relief package also amended the SVOG program so organizations that apply for a Paycheck Protection Porgram loan after Dec. 27, 2020, can also apply for the program, with the eligible entity’s SVOG fund to be reduced by the PPP loan amount.

The agency said it will hold a national webinar to walk venue operators through the application process on March 30 from 11:30 a.m. PST to 1 p.m. PST. To register, visit here.

Contact Jonathan Ng at jng@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ByJonathanNg on Twitter.

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