Members of Congress Call on SBA to Fix ‘Save Our Stages’ Aid Website

Independent music venues and theaters in the U.S. have been mostly shuttered for 13 months now — and although the #SaveOurStages act was signed into law on Dec. 27, promising $16 billion in relief to those businesses, when the website through which venues could apply for relief finally opened on April 8, it immediately crashed.

The SBA has said that it is aiming to reopen the website by the end of this week, and on Monday multiple senators and congresspeople — including multiple “Over the next few days, our tech team and vendors will remain focused on testing the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal,” the SBA tweeted on Friday. “We are aiming to reopen the portal by the end of [this] week.

On Monday, dozens of senators and congresspeople — including the “Save Our Stages” act’s coauthors, Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn — sent a letter to the head of the Small Business Administration, Isabella Guzman, calling on the organization to fix the portal and emphasizing the urgency of the need: “With each passing day, more independent businesses are forced to shutter permanently or file for bankruptcy. Landlords and banks are no longer permitting deferrals and are pressing for immediate payment of past due accounts; businesses are receiving eviction notices; mom-and-pop businesses are being forced to sell. The Administration’s announcement is critical to these businesses as they work to meet existing debt obligations during these unprecedented times.” The letter appears in full below; see the full list of signatories here.

In response, the National Independent Venues Association wrote: “The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant earned extensive bipartisan support when it was signed into law December 27, 2020, but it hasn’t been rolled out yet, so we’re gratified that 114 days later, Congress is once again expressing its intention to Save Our Stages. Today, 164 bipartisan Congressional signers are asking Small Business Administrator Isabella Guzman to act with a sense of urgency and open the $16 billion emergency relief program. Our members are anxiously awaiting, as they’ve been without revenue but still saddled with all of their overhead for the last 13 months.  Without SVOG, there will be a mass collapse of our industry. Our Congressional champions from both sides of the aisle understand that we will be part of the economic renewal of our communities across America when this emergency relief arrives.”

April 19, 2021

The Honorable Isabella Guzman
Administrator, Small Business Administration
409 3rd Street, SW
Washington, DC 20416

Dear Administrator Guzman:

Thank you for your work and that of the entire Small Business Administration (SBA) to ensure the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) emergency relief program is implemented and funding is distributed to eligible recipients as Congress intended. Immediately launching SVOG will be critical to ensuring the health of this important industry.

The Administration’s recent announcement that it is “aiming to reopen the portal by the end of next week”[1] is encouraging, and we urge the Administration to make every effort to meet this goal. As you correctly point out, “this funding is urgently needed now.”[2] With each passing day, more independent businesses are forced to shutter permanently or file for bankruptcy. Landlords and banks are no longer permitting deferrals and are pressing for immediate payment of past due accounts; businesses are receiving eviction notices; mom-and-pop businesses are being forced to sell. The Administration’s announcement is critical to these businesses as they work to meet existing debt obligations during these unprecedented times.

We also respectfully request you continue outreach to potential applicants and finalize guidance that will inform applicants of the precise requirements for eligibility and grant amount. We continue to urge SBA to implement a technical corrections process so reviewers may seek additional information if a submission is rejected due to an obvious technical error. This is consistent with the review opportunity provided under other federal grant programs and would ensure that eligible applicants are not excluded due to an inadvertent failure to comply with a technical requirement of the application process.

The Save Our Stages Act, now the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, was created to prevent widespread closures of shuttered venues. As supporters of the SVOG program, we look forward to the start of the program this week and stand ready to work with you to ensure proper and timely aid to applicants within each priority period.

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