Rumor Has It
Show Them the Money
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
With the reopening of much of the country has come various news stories about the return of the live music industry, what it will look like and how it will happen. Festivals are being announced and there’s a general feeling of relief that the worst—cross your fingers—might have passed.
After all, independent venues, which had been left out of every COVID funding cycle, finally nabbed $16 billion in dedicated federal aid courtesy of the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant program, approved some five months ago with a collective sigh of relief and great fanfare.
At this point the impact of that money has yet to be felt by the independent venues it was intended to help and potentially save. Due to unknown and unexplained issues, the Small Business Administration, which runs the program, has yet to disburse the funds. Not some of the funds. All of them. As in, not a single venue has received a single dollar.
Some 12,000 venues have applied—navigating an application system beset with technical issues and amid confusion and chaos—only be told…nothing.
According to a recent statement by the SBA, venues with the greatest need—those that have lost 90 percent or more of their revenue during their year of darkness—could receive word about the status of their applications sometime this week. The hope is that with that word will come the long-awaited financial lifeline so many venues desperately need.
After that first round of payments goes out, the SBA will work on the next tier of applications. The organization has offered no word on when the disbursement of those funds could begin.
Given that independent venues have spent more than a year shuttered with no revenue to speak of, the delay is unconscionable, bordering on cruel. As economies open across the nation, the lack of a federal bailout—even when dedicated funds exist—is forcing a scenario in which venues must choose between reopening and possibly endangering people or staying dark and endangering their own survival. That so many of them have and will continue to remain closed until such time as more people are vaccinated and it is safe to gather speaks to who they are and what they’re made of.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, independent venues, while dark, have been a bright light, joining together in an all-for-one, one-for-all effort to secure federal funding and making it clear they will stay closed to keep their communities safe. They deserve every last dollar they’ve got coming—and I hope it shows up soon.