US live entertainment venues are set to receive a much-need boost after President Joe Biden signed a $1.9tn COVID-19 relief package into law yesterday (Thursday).
The American Rescue Plan will allocate an additional $1.25bn to the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) programme, originally known as the Save Our Stages Act, which was established in December and included $15bn in grants for struggling venues.
The relief package also added a new amendment that will now allow venue owners to apply for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which will be distributed more quickly. The ability to apply for both a loan and a grant was originally prohibited under the grant programme.
If a venue decides to take out a PPP loan, the amount they receive will be reduced from the total they would receive from an SVOG. Venues are still waiting for the Small Business Administration — which was tasked with overseeing the SVOG — to launch the programme.
“This change can save countless venues from bankruptcy, as the immediate PPP2 money will help them hold on until the SVOG funds flow,” Dayna Frank, National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) board president and chief executive of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis, said in a statement last week when the amendment was announced.
She added: “To say our members are frantic and anxious is an understatement. The eviction notices have been coming at an even faster pace as time goes by without this emergency relief.”
The American Rescue Plan’s most notable provisions include providing up to $1,400 direct payments this year to most people, some of which could arrive this weekend. It is also extending $300 weekly emergency unemployment benefits into early September.