SBA stops launching assistance program for operators of closed artistic venues


Updated at 5:34 p.m. PT on April 8: The US Small Business Administration on Thursday suspended the launch of the long-awaited grant for operators of closed sites, after applicants were thwarted by technical difficulties. The grants are intended to provide a $ 16 billion lifeline to museums, cinemas, concert halls and even zoos that have seen their revenues decimated by the pandemic.

But applicants like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) said they could log into the SBA’s online application portal, but not download financial documents. This scene took place across the country. The SBA subsequently closed the portal “to ensure fair and equitable access once it has been reopened”.

“This decision was not taken lightly as we understand the need to bring relief quickly to this hard-hit industry,” the agency wrote on Twitter.

The SBA said technical errors had arisen despite prior testing. He said he would announce the time and date for the gate to reopen. Applicants can sign up to receive updates and view the application checklists at

The original story follows:

In February, Jeremy Longstreet stood in the empty cinema he owns in North Portland. The pandemic had darkened the St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub for nearly a year. Longstreet didn’t know when it would reopen, or how. But he knew he needed help.

He was waiting for the federal government to launch a major grant program for closed places like his.

“It would mean everything,” he said. “That would mean, hey, there is a future. I will always hold on. I will always try to open my business and get down to it. “

Now the launch day has arrived.

The U.S. Small Business Administration plans to start accepting claims for the $ 16 billion on Thursday Subsidy to operators of closed sites program – a long wait for Longstreet and more than three months after its approval by the federal government.

Jeremy Longstreet opens the door of his closed movie theater, the St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub, in North Portland on February 22, 2021. He said a federal grant “would mean everything.”

Kate Davidson / OPB

The grants are intended to support concert halls, theaters, museums and zoos whose revenues have been criticized by closures and restrictions in the event of a pandemic.

It’s a big program. Eligible applicants can claim up to 45% of the gross income they earned in 2019, before the pandemic strikes. There is a cap of $ 10 million. The SBA says it will set aside $ 2 billion for smallholders with up to 50 employees.

The SBA is taking a different approach to the program than it did with the initial roll-out of the Paycheck Protection Program, with its frantic race for first-come, first-served loans.

Grant applications for closed sites will always be accepted on a first-in, first-out basis. But they will be assigned to priority groups depending on who lost the most. In the first two weeks of scholarships, applicants who lost 90% of their gross income from April to December get the first dibs.

Some site operators with lower financial losses fear that the money will run out before their turn. The SBA estimates that it will award 15,000 grants in total.

For some businesses, a closed place grant would be a lifeline. For others, it would be a valuable part of the funding patchwork needed to emerge from the pandemic.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland has previously received PPP loans as well as funding under the CARES Act.

“This has been extremely important in keeping us stable,” said Love Centerwall, vice president of development at OMSI.

But that funding did not make up for the museum’s estimated loss of revenue of $ 8.3 million in 2020, he said. It also cannot increase foot traffic in the museum. OMSI registers more than 800,000 admissions in a typical year. In 2020, less than 200,000 people visited.

“Right now we have ‘dinosaurs’ that are extremely popular, and they’re full, but at reduced capacity,” Centerwall said. “The revenues are still significantly down just because we can’t fill the halls.”

Coronavirus restrictions renewed announced this week for Multnomah County means the number of visitors allowed inside OMSI will be shrink again Friday.

On the eve of the closed room grant launch, Jamie and Sonny Hess were still wondering what to do.

The co-owners of the Blue Diamond Bar & Grill in Portland serve food and drink, as do many concert venue operators. Food makes more money, but people come for blues and R&B.

Jamie Hess was struggling in an eleventh hour riddle. Should they apply for a closed venue grant on Thursday or wait for more information to be released on a future SBA grant program for restaurants?

“I have until midnight tonight to figure this out,” she said. Hess and other potential candidates actually have until the window officially opens at 9 a.m. PT.

With incomplete information, the stakes were high. Hess said the Blue Diamond’s revenue fell nearly 60% in 2020.

“It’s our survival. I don’t think that without one of these grants we will be successful all summer, ”she said. “It’s basically also blatant.

Next week, the venue plans to shut down the music inside again. They will rely on limited performance outdoors as COVID-19 cases rise again in Multnomah County.

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