Federal Grant Program Eyes Help for Venues Hit Hard by Pandemic Response

Emagine Theatres had what Paul Glantz called “a pretty good weekend” with the new film, “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

Now Glantz, co-founder and chairman of Emagine Entertainment, which has 24 theaters in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan, is hoping to take advantage of a federal program designed to help venue operators hit hardest by stay-home orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Small Business Administration launched a splash page last week for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) application portal in anticipation of opening applications for the much-anticipated critical economic relief program on Thursday.

The SVOG program was established by the Economic Aid to Hard Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act, which appropriated $15 billion for it. The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, appropriated an additional $1.25 billion, bringing the program funding to a total of $16.25 billion, with more than $16 billion allocated for grants.

“The legislative intent is to help put some salve on the wounds of those of us who’ve suffered such excessive losses as a result of government-imposed shutdowns,” Glantz said. “I’m hopeful it will apply to us and our application will be accepted.”

To ensure eligible venues do not miss a window to receive assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program, the American Rescue Plan Act also amended the SVOG program so entities that apply for a PPP loan after Dec. 27, 2020, can also apply for an SVOG, with the eligible entity’s SVOG to be reduced by the PPP loan amount. The PPP loan applications have been updated to reflect this.

“Help is here for venue operators hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The SBA has worked diligently to build the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program from the ground up to assist and address the diverse eligibility requirements of each type of applicant and we will open for applications on April 8,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said. “The SBA knows these venues are critical to America’s economy and understands how hard they’ve been impacted, as they were among the first to shutter. This vital economic aid will provide a much-needed lifeline for live venues, museums, movie theatres and many more.”

The awarding of the grants will be based on needs from businesses, sorted into three priorities:

  • The first priority group will be those venues that have suffered 90% or greater in revenue loss from April 2020 through December 2020.
  • After 14 days, the second priority group will be considered, which are those businesses that have suffered a revenue loss of 70% or greater in the same time frame.
  • After those 14 days, the third priority group will be reviewed for awards, which includes businesses that demonstrate a 25% or greater loss in earned revenue in a quarter of 2020 compared to the corresponding quarter in 2019.

Glantz said Emagine definitely intends to apply for the program.

“We’re going to apply, we believe we’re eligible, we certainly hope we’re going to be a beneficiary of it,” Glantz said. “But I’m also a CPA, and I don’t count the chickens before they hatch. We had a pretty good weekend with Godzilla, so let’s hope that’s the beginning of turning the corner.”