The Small Business Administration plans to process most of the aid applications from its Shutter Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program by early July, Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., said Wednesday.
More than 14,000 small businesses across the country who have applied for the grants, according to the SBA.
“I was encouraged to hear during a constructive discussion today with Administrator [Isabel] Guzman that SVOG has her full attention, the team implementing the program has been revamped, the agency will work with applicants that simply had technical mistakes, and that SBA will aim to process most applications by early July,” Hagerty in a news release.
“The actions and commitments I heard from the Administrator today will hopefully provide struggling venues in Tennessee with more certainty about the funds needed to save their operations,” Hagerty added.
The SBA did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on how soon the applications will be processed.
The SBA’s $16 billion fund was created to help sustain the industry until in-person entertainment can resume. Music clubs, theaters, promoters and others can access grants of as much as $10 million based on their gross revenue from 2019. The program was included in the second Covid relief package that was signed into law in December.
The program’s application portal was snarled by technical glitches. It was launched on April 8 for a few hours before closing without any applications due to the issues. It reopened weeks later after an uproar over the delay, and businesses rushed to resubmit their applications in hopes of getting a much-needed grant.
Thousands of businesses are still waiting on their applications. As of midday Monday, the SBA reported 1,445 grants had been awarded for a total of $833.4 million. The agency said in its weekly report that 7,118 applications remain in the submitted phase and 5,853 are in review. The combined requests represent $11.6 billion in grants.
One of those businesses that waited a long time for its application to be processed was the North Park Theatre in Buffalo, New York.
The venue — a local landmark — was waiting on a grant worth more than $200,000 when CNBC’s reporting on the SVOG program was published earlier this week. The theater got notice on Tuesday that its application was approved.
“This is the kind of place you want to see a movie — you’re going to forget about the outside world and escape for a few hours,” said Ray Barker, the theater’s program director. He has been with North Park since the 1990s, when he started as a concession worker.