Independent live entertainment businesses have until Aug. 20 to submit or resubmit to receive federal assistance under the $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program. And although over 15,000 applications have been submitted already with millions distributed, eligible applications are still rolling in with only a week left to go.
“A lot of people could probably still apply, either they didn’t know about it or it was too complicated, or both,” says Joshua Pollack, co-founder of the newly launched firm MySVOG, which is currently advising more than 100 clients whose work go beyond the concert venues and promoters often associated with the program. Comedy clubs, dance studios, universities, museums, movie theaters and local arts organizations may be eligible for grants up to $10 million too. “Anything with a stage that would take a ticket qualifies on facility side,” he says. “There’s also promoters, talent managers, agents and the people that put acts on the stage that qualify on the presenting side.”
Pollack and his partner Schuyler Hoversten charge a “small success fee” for their services that’s “variable based upon how much work is involved and how organized or not they are,” says Hoversten. It’s similar to how other consultants have helped small businesses apply for other government-sponsored COVID-19 aid programs like the Payroll Protection Program and the SBA’s restaurant grant program during the pandemic. And with the SVOG deadline approaching, they want to encourage businesses not to give up, even if the process seems complicated.
“It’s so complex. It’s so convoluted,” Hoversten says. “They’re asking for a lot of information and I think if you’re not completely telling the story or showing that you’re eligible, then you’re going to have some issues…. It’s not a process geared toward getting a lot of people approved and I think that frustrates some people.”
But, he adds, “This money was authorized Congress and there is a real desire to get it into the right hands.”
As of Monday, about 68% of applicants — 10,826 out of 15,872 total — had so far received $8.4 billion in funding. But there are more than 3,200 businesses who had their applications rejected — roughly one quarter of all the SBA’s decisions. Of these, Pollack says, it’s part of the process and “this isn’t the SBA trying to be mean — it’s a situation where they’re stating to the people that need funding, ‘Let us try to help you,’” adding that the SBA will begin reaching out to applicants via telephone to close out any backlog appeals.
Rejections commonly come down to small clerical mistakes and missing paperwork, says Pollack. Or it can be a larger issue with how a company presents its financial reporting or describes its events and business. “You want to think about why you may have been declined,” he says, “You should study which people got approved and see if you can fit into one of those buckets.”
After Aug. 20, the SBA will open up its grant supplemental funding awards, for which businesses will not need to reapply, distributing grants for up to half of what was received in the first round.