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Cultural Venues Seeking Relief Could Overwhelm Federal Fund

Operators of cash-strapped performance venues shuttered by pandemic restrictions are expected to turn out in droves seeking funds from a $15 billion program Congress created to help the industry, The New York Times (NYT) reported.

A potentially troublesome aspect of the program, NYT reported, is that the distribution will be managed by the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) — an agency that lacks experience operating such a program.

When the fund was created in December as part of a $900 billion relief package, operators of independent organizations cheered the news, NYT reported previously.

“This is what our industry needs to make it through,” Dayna Frank, who owns a club in Minneapolis, told NYT, adding that when she learned of the fund’s creation, she smiled for the first time in nine months.

The payments will come via what the government is calling a “Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.” According to the SBA website, the grants will provide up to 45 percent of a location’s annual earned revenue, with a cap of $10 million. Of the $15 billion, $2 billion is reserved for establishments with 50 or fewer employees.

The website stated that entities eligible to receive grants include: operators or promoters of events at live venues; theater producers; live performing arts organizations; operators of certain museums, aquariums and zoos; operators of movie theaters; and talent agents. The grants are not available to entities that received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans on or after Dec. 27.

The slowdown has devastated operations ranging from small rock clubs to Broadway shows, PYMNTS reported. One hit show — “Frozen” — reportedly won’t return even after restrictions have been eased.

NYT reported that the SBA has not yet determined when to launch the grant program, but rules could come within days and applications may be accepted within several weeks.

With the dates of major re-openings of cities and venues anything but certain at this point, there is one glimmer of hope for fans of live music — or at least, live shows delivered remotely. Video game platforms such as Fortnite have gotten into the concert business, PYMNTS reported. Case in point: Travis Scott performed for more than 12 million people who were watching and listening through Fornite.

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