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Grant program opens for shuttered theaters, museums, concert halls

Grant program opens for shuttered theaters, museums, concert
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Grants of up to $10 million will be available, starting Thursday, to independent movie theaters, concert halls, museums and live performance spaces that were closed to slow the coronavirus’ spread.

The U.S. Small Business Administration will begin accepting online applications for its Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, or SVOG. The program was established by December’s federal stimulus package and expanded by last month’s package.

More than $16 billion in grants is available; $2 billion has been set aside for venues with 50 or fewer employees. Grants do not have to be repaid.

“Help is here for venue operators hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the new SBA administrator, Isabella Casillas Guzman. The agency “understands how hard [venues] have been impacted, as they were among the first to shutter.”

The SVOG program is aimed at helping venues with 500 or fewer employees that aren’t owned by a public company or have locations in 11 or more states.

On Long Island, such venues include the Argyle Theatre in Babylon, Malverne Cinema & Art Center, The Paramount concert hall in Huntington village and Mulcahy’s Pub and Concert Hall in Wantagh.

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These and others will be greatly helped by the SVOG and that in turn will benefit nearby “bars, restaurants, hotels, retail shops, parking facilities and other businesses that depend on our venues to attract audiences,” said Laura Mogul, executive director of the Landmark on Main Street theater in Port Washington.

More information about the SVOG may be found at sba.gov/svogrant.

Q: Am I eligible for a SVOG if I opened my venue last summer?

A: No. Applicants must have been operating as of Feb. 29, 2020.

Q: Is a venue eligible for a SVOG if it has received federal grants in the past?

A: A venue is ineligible if more than 10% of its 2019 gross revenue came from the federal government. The rule affects venues owned by private universities but not public universities.

Q: Can I apply for a SVOG if I’ve already received a PPP loan?

A: Yes, but applicants that received a PPP loan on or after Dec. 27 will have the SVOG reduced by the full loan amount.

Q: What is the federal government’s System for Award Management, which I must register for in order to apply for a SVOG?

A: System for Award Management, or SAM, is a registry of entities seeking to do business with the federal government. To register, go to sam.gov. You will need to provide information from your registration with the business information service Dun & Bradstreet. If you don’t have a DUNS number, you may request one at fedgov.dnb.com/webform. SAM also requires your tax identification number and information about your bank account. There is no cost to register, but it may take several weeks to be approved. Sam.gov will be down for maintenance work on Saturday, April 10, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Q: How is the SVOG amount determined?

A: For businesses operating on or before Jan. 1, 2019, the grant amount will equal up to 45% of the applicant’s 2019 gross revenue or $10 million, whichever is less. For businesses that opened later, the grant amount will equal the average monthly gross revenue for each month in operation during 2019 multiplied by six, or $10 million, whichever is less.

Q: Do some applications get priority?

A: For two weeks, starting on Thursday, grant applications will first be processed for venues that lost 90% or more of revenue between April and December 2020 because of the pandemic. The following two weeks, priority will be given to venues that lost 70% or more of revenue. In early May, priority will be given to applications from venues that lost 25% or more of revenue in one quarter of last year compared with the same quarter in 2019.

Q: What can I use the SVOG money for?

A: Payroll costs, rent and mortgage payments, utility bills, taxes, insurance and other operating expenses. Funds cannot be used to buy property, make payments on loans made after Feb. 15, 2020, make investments or contribute to political campaigns. Records of grant spending must be kept for three years from when the grant was received. Employment records must be retained for four years.

Q: What recourse is available if SBA denies an SVOG application?

A: There is no appeal process.

Q: Is an SVOG grant subject to federal tax?

A: No

Q: Can an SVOG recipient also apply for the forthcoming restaurant grant program under the American Rescue Plan adopted earlier this year?

A: No

Q: How does SBA define the list of “current employees” that a venue must provide with the SVOG application?

A: Employees as of the date of the grant application or the most recent list before the venue was shut down due to the pandemic.

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