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Tech issues shut grant application portal for hard-hit theaters and other venues, SBA says

The SBA shut down the online application portal

The SBA shut down the online application portal for its Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program on Thursday, hours after it opened.  Credit: SBA

The application portal for a federal grant program to help hard-hit independent movie theaters, concert halls and other live performance spaces was shut down hours after it opened on Thursday.

The online portal for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program was closed due to "technical issues," said the U.S. Small Business Administration, which runs the SVOG.

The move came a few hours after the portal opened for the first time since the program was created by Congress and then-President Donald Trump in December.

The SVOG provides grants of up to $10 million to qualifying venues that closed to slow the coronavirus’ spread a year ago. More than $16.2 billion is available to help the venues recover from big revenue losses in 2020.

"We are working closely with our vendors to fix the ... tech issues, which have been identified," SBA said Friday on Twitter. "As we work to remedy them, we can confirm [that] we did not accept any applications or distribute any funding -- and the ability to submit an application remains closed."

The agency didn’t say when the portal will reopen but urged applicants to register for SVOG on the portal to get new updates.

"This decision was not made lightly as we understand the need to get relief quickly to this hard-hit industry," SBA said.

The portal’s shutdown came a day after SBA’s inspector general Hannibal "Mike" Ware warned that there are insufficient safeguards to prevent SVOG fraud. In an eight-page report, he called for "immediate action…to strengthen internal controls and reduce risk of misuse of federal funds."

The report led Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, the top Republican on the House Small Business Committee, to call for a postponement of Thursday’s noon opening of the SVOG application portal.

SVOG’s launch "was a complete debacle," he said. "I am calling on the SBA to halt this program until all technical problems and inspector general concerns are resolved."

The agency has estimated it will receive 15,000 SVOG applications; it expects the size of the average grant will be $1 million.

More information may be found at sba.gov/svogrant.

In late March 2020, SBA was forced to shut down the application portal for its Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL. The agency said some applicants had their personal information disclosed to other applicants using the portal at the same time.

Applicants had to submit their EIDL forms via postal mail while a new online portal was built.

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