The application process for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants will not reopen by this weekend, a spokesperson for the Small Business Administration told Broadway News Thursday.
The portal for applications originally opened at noon on April 8, but was shut down a few hours later due to technical difficulties. Broadway theater owners, producers, productions and theater houses across the country have been looking to the grants of up to $10 million as a means to help restart the industry.
The Small Business Administration said it will use the weekend — meaning the portal will not reopen Friday or at any point this weekend — to continue testing the application portal, which previously did not allow applicants to upload needed documents. The goal is to reopen the portal by the end of the week starting April 19.
A few hours before the application portal opened April 8, the Office of Inspector General, which monitors the Department of Commerce’s programs, expressed “serious concerns” about the grant program’s management due to a lack of staff and organizational structure. In the report, the Office of Inspector General said the program office had one designated official to review applications, while the rest of the 500 individuals to review applications were working on a temporary basis.
In addition to the theater industry, independent concert venues, museums and zoos are eligible to receive the grants to help cover payroll costs, rent, mortgage payments and utilities. The legislation was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, as part of the previous coronavirus relief package.
Since then, potential recipients have been preparing application materials and working to understand grant requirements. However, even when the portal opened, questions remained about eligibility and required documents for the grants.
The Small Business Administration has more than $16 billion to distribute as part of the grant program and an estimated 30,000 or more applicants. A successful roll-out of the application process is essential, because the grants are considered based on the order in which they are received.
On Wednesday, the Small Business Administration said it had fixed the initial technical issues related to the portal, but found additional issues.
“When we re-started rigorous testing with our vendors and did additional risk analysis, our teams identified other potential performance issues, which we are working to resolve. We are focused on strengthening the portal’s performance and user enhancements for when it reopens,” the SBA wrote in a tweet Wednesday.