Federal aid for closed entertainment venues could be a race for cash 

In December, Congress created a $15 billion grant fund for clubs and performance spaces, recognizing that thousands of cultural institutions were at risk of closing permanently because there is no safe way to attend a rock concert or Broadway musical in a pandemic. 

Now comes the hard part: doling out the cash, according to The New York Times.   

The list of eligible recipients is large, and the Small Business Administration—the agency in charge of creating rules and systems for the initiative, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant—has never run a major grant program.  

The shuttered-venue grant program was the result of an effort by the National Independent Venue Association, a grassroots group that formed in April. Lobbyists and activists argued that live-events businesses needed grants on top of Paycheck Protection Program loans—which weren’t designed for long-term shutdowns—because their entire business model had been destroyed. 

“We had no income, enormous overhead and no visibility into when we could reopen,” says Audrey Fix Schaefer, the group’s communications director.

SBA officials have not yet determined when the grant program will begin, but three people familiar with the preparations said the agency was likely to circulate rules and guidance as early as this week and start taking applications a few weeks later.  

The SBA estimates that at least 27,000 businesses could qualify. They include 2,000 movie theaters, 3,000 talent agents and promoters, nearly 7,000 museums and zoos, and more than 6,000 music clubs and theater operators. 

Once the program opens, applicants will be in a race for funds.

Most recipients are eligible to collect 45% of their 2019 revenue, up to $10 million. For the first 14 days, grants will be available only to those with a 90% or greater revenue loss between April and December. After that, applicants with a loss of 70% or more will have a 14-day priority window. Those two groups alone could deplete the program’s funding before other applicants—those with losses of at least 25%—can have their turn.

That leaves most business owners facing a tricky choice: Should they seek a shuttered venue grant or instead apply for Paycheck Protection Program relief? Read the full story.