person's feet on stage at a live music venue
The SVO grant program will offer up funds to a specific set of businesses that operate live venues or serve a role in the performance arts industry. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

This story was updated 4/27/21.

Editor's Note: The application portal for Shuttered Venue Operator Grants is now open. You can learn more here.

While the return of PPP loans and expanded tax credits grabbed many of the headlines when the government passed stimulus bills in December 2020 and March 2021, the new Shuttered Venue Operators (SVO) grant program could also play a significant role in helping eligible businesses.

Specifically, the SVO grant program will distribute more than $16 billion to live venue operators, including eligible movie theaters, concert spaces, museums and performing arts organizations.

Applicants generally can receive SVO grants equal to 45% of gross earned revenue, up to $10 million. However, while the SVO grant program will play an essential role in keeping many live venues afloat until the coronavirus threat subsides, applying for these grants will take a little work.

Here’s what live venue operators should know now if they are interested in these new grants.

What businesses are eligible to apply for these grants

The SVO grant program will offer up funds to a specific set of businesses that operate live venues or serve a role in the performance arts industry. These companies must have been operating as of February 29, 2020, and have not received a PPP loan on or after December 27, 2020.

Businesses that generally qualify include:

  • Live venue operators or promoters.
  • Theatrical producers.
  • Live performing arts organization operators.
  • Museum operators, zoos and aquariums that meet specific criteria.
  • Motion picture theater operators.
  • Talent representatives.

Any business that wants one of these grants must have an active government System of Award Management (SAM) account, so it’s crucial to sign up quickly at SAM.gov.

Eligible businesses should sign up for a SAM account immediately

Any business that wants one of these grants must have an active government System of Award Management (SAM) account, so it’s crucial to sign up quickly at SAM.gov. To sign up, you must first create a login.gov user account and then use that same login information to sign up for SAM. When you are registering for SAM, you will also need to provide the following data that should be tied to your business:

  • Dun & Bradstreet DUNS number: Acquiring a DUNS number is free and typically takes one to two business days to process. You can get the DUNS number free here.
  • Tax Id Number (TIN) and Taxpayer Name: A TIN will typically be either your Employer ID Number (EIN) or Social Security Number (SSN), depending on what type of business you own. It’s possible your Taxpayer Name is not the same as your legal business name, so be sure to double-check this.
  • A CAGE or NCAGE number: If you already have a CAGE/NCAGE number, you are all set. If you don’t have one, you’ll automatically be assigned your SAM.gov registration is finished.
  • A NAICS code: This code identifies what industry your business serves. You can look up NAICS codes here.
  • Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Information: You’ll need to provide your bank routing and account numbers to receive funds.

It’s strongly advised to get a SAM account functional swiftly to speed up the SVO grant application process.

Grant priorities

The SVO grant funds will be disbursed to applicants in the order of those who have been hit hardest first and those that were hurt the least later. For example, the first 14 days of distribution will be prioritized for “entities that suffered a 90% or greater revenue loss between April 2020 through December 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The second 14 days will be focused on entities that suffered a 70% or greater revenue loss during that same time period. And so on.

Businesses can take both PPP loans and venue grants

The SVO grant program initially barred prospective applicants from receiving both PPP loans and SVO grants. However, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) amended this provision and now businesses can apply for first- and second-draw PPP loans prior to applying for SVO grants. However, any venues that receive an SVO grant will be ineligible to receive a new PPP loan after the grant is issued. If a company seeking an SVO grant receives a PPP loan on or after December 27, 2020, then they will have the PPP loan deducted from the SVO grant total. For example, if a performing arts theater received a $20,000 PPP loan in January 2021 and is approved for an SVO grant of $100,000 in April 2021, the grant will only be worth $80,000. If a company was able to get a PPP loan before December 27, 2020, their grant will not be reduced by that amount.

What SVO funds can be used for

The SVO grant recipients can use the funds for a wide variety of expenses, including payroll; rent; utilities; mortgage payments; debt payments on debts incurred before February 15, 2020; worker protection and PPE expenses; state and local taxes and fees, insurance payments and advertising fees. However, the grant funds cannot be used to buy real estate; make debt payments on debts incurred after February 12, 2020; make investments or loans; or contribute to political parties or candidates.

Looking for more?

If you’re looking for more information about SVO grants, the SBA has created a helpful FAQ sheet that outlines program information in granular detail.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 22, 2021