Huizenga, Peters, Stabenow urge SBA to release relief funds for entertainment venues

WASHINGTON — Bipartisan groups of lawmakers from both chambers of Congress are calling on the U.S. Small Business Administration to expedite relief money for entertainment venues affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sens. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, as well as Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, joined lawmakers in their chambers in sending letters to SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman this week in urging her agency to speed up the release of funds made available through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

The SVOG program provides rescue dollars for entertainment venues that have been unable to book shows during the coronavirus pandemic, missing out on vital revenue. 

Lawmakers say the longer SVOG grants go without disbursement, the greater risk there is for entertainment venues to go under. 

“It’s been six months since Congress created the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program to help some of the hardest hit small businesses in the nation,” Huizenga said in a statement. “The SBA's inability to properly administer the funding in a timely manner is completely unacceptable. The more time that passes due to bureaucratic inaction, the more small concert venues will close their doors for good.”

House representatives noted that, according to the Office of Disaster Assistance, as of June 14, the SBA had only approved 411 grants out of over 14,000 applications submitted, and nearly half of the applications had not yet reached the review stage.

"The slow pace is becoming increasingly untenable for the small businesses in our districts," representatives wrote. "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. We are hearing from venue operators who are days away from closing their doors if these funds are not sent soon."

By:  Arpan Lobo
Source: Holland Sentinel