Cantwell, Colleagues Send Letter to Small Business Administration Urging Opening of Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Application Portal, Highlighting Critical Needs of Venues

ICYMI: Cantwell held roundtable with Washington venue representatives about Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, critical needs for assistance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and a bipartisan group of colleagues in sending a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) calling on them to open the application for the Small Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) emergency relief program as soon as possible. The application for the SBA grant program for eligible live venues impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was scheduled to open on April 8, 2021, but was temporarily suspended due to technical difficulties. In the letter, the senators point out that the program is critical to the survival of a number of industries—and that for many venues, the SVOG program could be the difference between permanently closing and being able to continue operations and recover from COVID-19 losses.

In the letter addressed to SBA Administrator Guzman, the senators wrote, “The Administration’s recent announcement that it is ‘aiming to reopen the portal by the end of next week’ is encouraging, and we urge the Administration to make every effort to meet this goal…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.”

During a roundtable discussion with Washington venue representatives earlier this month, Cantwell spoke about the importance of getting relief to Washington venues and businesses: “Whether it's live music, live theater, a venue of cultural significance in which you're bringing a live audience -- you have been the hardest hit in this economic downturn due to the COVID pandemic, so we want to help…We don't want to lose this aspect of Washington's economy. We want you to be there for the future.”

Cantwell fought for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program to be established in the December 2020 end-of-year COVID-19 emergency relief and continuing appropriations package and pushed for additional funding to be included in the American Rescue Plan Congress passed in March.

Since March 2020, live-event venues have been among the hardest-hit businesses in the country. Most have generated near-zero revenue but have had to continue paying fixed expenses, like rent, in order to stay in business.

The State of Washington has 135 independent venues that hold between 100 and 2000 people in capacity. Before the pandemic, these venues employed more than 3,000 workers and generated more than $785 million in annual economic activity. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, there are at least 90 small and independent movie theaters across Washington that will also be eligible for SVOG grants. They represent 66% of all movie theaters in the state. There are also approximately 475 museums and cultural institutions in Washington state, including 12 arboretums/botanical gardens and 4 zoos and aquariums, that may be eligible to apply for SVOG grants.

The full text of the letter is available HERE.