Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH)
Today, Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01), a small business owner and Co-Chair of the House Small Business Caucus, joined more than 200 Members of Congress in a bipartisan letter to Administrator Isabel Guzman of the Small Business Administration urging immediate action to stabilize and improve the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, which is intended to provide emergency assistance grants to venues that were unable to operate during the pandemic.
The implementation of the SVOG program has been plagued by technical challenges and delays. Since launching in April, the SBA has approved roughly 400 grants as of June 14 – out of 14,000 applications.
In New Hampshire, only one business that applied for the SVOG program has received grants.
In the letter, Pappas and his colleagues requested an explanation as to why the program rollout has stalled and demanded that these vital funds be released by SBA to help struggling venues in New Hampshire and across the country.
“The slow pace is becoming increasingly untenable for the small businesses in our districts. Their banks have threatened to call in the full amount of small business loans, they do not have the funds to pay their landlords full rent, and they cannot retain staff,” wrote the Members. “We are hearing from venue operators who are days away from closing their doors if these funds are not sent soon. These small businesses not only provide good jobs and contribute economically to our local communities, they contribute to the spirit and local culture as well. We must act now.”
The program, which is administered by the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance, was originally created as part of the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act last December. The program includes over $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues, and also received additional funding from the American Rescue Plan Act earlier this year. Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million.
On April 8th, the program’s portal crashed, halting applications for nearly three weeks. Even after relaunching the application portal, there have been significant delays in the processing of applicants and the awarding of funds. According to the Office of Disaster Assistance, as of June 14, the SBA has only approved 411 grants out of the over 14,000 applications submitted, and nearly half of the applications have not yet reached the review stage.
The full text of the letter, led by Reps. Angie Craig (D-MN), Roger Williams (R-TX), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), and Dean Phillips (D-MN), can be found here.