Glitches derail SBA relief program for live venues

An online application portal meant to help the nation’s music and arts venues get federal pandemic relief after a year-plus of dark stages and a hard-fought lobbying campaign has yet to get off the ground nearly two weeks after technical problems scuttled its scheduled launch, The Washington Post reports

The delayed rollout of the $16 billion program, which the Small Business Administration says could be resolved later this week, is the latest stumble by a government agency tasked with delivering emergency aid during the pandemic. The problems—including meltdowns of states’ unemployment insurance systems, stimulus payment delays and glitches in vaccine registration websites—underscore the daunting task of running massive rescue programs during a public health crisis.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, which would top out at $10 million apiece, is designed to help arts and entertainment businesses cover payroll, rent, utilities and other operating expenses after government restrictions on public gatherings cut off the howling crowds that serve as their lifeblood. 

In a letter to be sent Monday, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, who led the passage of the arts legislation, urged the SBA to meet its goal of getting the program back online this week.

“With each passing day, more independent businesses are forced to shutter permanently or file for bankruptcy,” the senators wrote. “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.” Read the full story.