The federal government will try again on Monday to accept applications for COVID-19 relief grants from independent movie theaters, museums, concert halls and other live performance spaces after the application portal crashed two weeks ago.
The U.S. Small Business Administration said Friday that its Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, or SVOG, will reopen April 26 at noon, and hopefully accept its first applications.
SBA was forced to shut down the SVOG application portal because of "technical issues" hours after it opened on April 8. However, on Friday the agency said it had "completed rigorous testing" to ensure the portal’s reliability, including "security mechanisms" and adding a virtual waiting room "to provide an orderly application process."
SBA also said venue operators may obtain an account in advance by going to sba.gov/svogrant. To do so, they should have a smartphone with a multi-factor authenticator app, the agency said.
Assistance in using the application portal is available by calling 800-659-2955.
"We recognize the urgency and need to get this program up and running," said Barb Carson, deputy associate administrator for SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance, which is overseeing the SVOG. The agency "will begin reviewing the applications on Monday as they are submitted," she said.
The SVOG was created in December by Congress and then-President Donald Trump to provide up to $10 million per venue that was closed by governments to slow the coronavirus’ spread a year ago. More than $16.2 billion is available to help venues recover from their big revenue losses in 2020.
SBA has estimated that it will receive 15,000 SVOG applications; it expects the size of the average grant to be $1 million. Priority will be given to venues that reported a revenue loss of 90% or more between April and December 2020 due to the pandemic.
This is the second time in about a year that one of the agency’s application portals for COVID-relief grants has crashed.
In March 2020, the portal for Economic Injury Disaster Loans, or EIDL, repeatedly froze and crashed under the weight of thousands of users. The portal was shut down for days after the personal information of more than 7,900 applicants was exposed to other applicants who were using the site at the same time, according to an October report by SBA Inspector General Hannibal "Mike" Ware.
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