Why Have Independent Music Venues Still Not Received Any of the Relief Funds They’re Legally Owed?

Five months after the Save Our Stages Act was passed, independent venues have received $0 in federal relief

The Troubadour
The Troubadour participates in Save Our Stages "One Year Dark" marquee campaign on March 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
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Back in December, after much lobbying, the Save Our Stages Act — which guarantees independent music venues and theaters $16 billion in federal pandemic relief — was finally passed into law. But as a new piece by Variety points out, five months later, those independent venue owners who are struggling to stay in business and reopen have yet to receive a penny.

The Small Business Administration (SBA), which is in charge of distributing the grant money to venues, blamed the delay on technical issues with its website, claiming they had originally hoped to begin distributing payments last week.

“That’s true; the SBA is committed to quickly and efficiently delivering this pandemic relief to help our theatres, music venues and more get the help they need,” a representative for the SBA told the publication. “While there continues to be some fine-tuning of technical components of the program, we expect SVOG Priority 1 (90% revenue loss) awards to tentatively begin next week, kicking off a 14-day priority period. We will then move on to begin processing Priority 2 awards.”

But, as Variety notes, “By any measure, the SBA’s failures are stunning: First it took several months for the SBA to open its website for the applications; when it opened, it immediately crashed and was not revived for two and a half weeks; there has been zero progress since it began successfully receiving applications on April 26, except to inform some venues, after several weeks, that its applications were incomplete.”

Naturally, the venues that are desperately in need of cash and those who worked hard to get it to them are upset. “The Administration had said they would be getting checks out the door to venues by the end of the month, but now they are making excuses for why they can’t meet that deadline,” a representative for Senator John Cornyn (R.-Texas), who co-authored the Save Our Stages bill, told Variety. “Although many venues are now able to reopen, they need this critical funding as soon as possible to cover rent and employee salaries.”

“This emergency relief can’t come soon enough for those on the precipice of going under,” Audrey Fix Shaefer of the National Independent Venue Association added. “We’ll be very grateful when the money is distributed as Congress intended. It’s been very hard to hold on, but even tougher to plan for reopening without the money to hire back staff, rent venues and secure acts with deposits. It will be incredible when the $16 billion Congress earmarked to save our stages becomes a reality.”

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