The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program officially opened Monday, with venue operators reporting successful uploads of applications for funding from the $16.25 billion program.
The opening of the SVOG application portal came almost four months to the day after Congress created the program and nearly three weeks after the technical problems with the newly constructed portal forced the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to close it for repairs before any applications had been successfully submitted. Numerous tweets from venue operators referenced successful application submissions on Monday.
The SBA had planned to reopen the portal Saturday but pushed it back until noon ET Monday after receiving negative feedback to a weekend relaunch.
The Friday announcement came less than 24 hours after the SBA had announced the Saturday reopening. In a brief statement issued late Thursday night, the agency said it had completed rigorous testing on the portal, which was forced to shut down due to technical issues only hours after it opened on April 8. The SBA also provided updated documents and guidance Friday. The agency said that interested applicants should register for an account in advance through the portal.
On Friday morning, the SBA released a 57-page SVOG user guide that includes reminders and screenshots with step-by-step instructions explaining how to answer questions in the SVOG application. Management and practitioners who intend to apply may wish to look through that document to make sure they are prepared with the proper supporting documentation for each question that applies to them.
In addition, the SBA released updated FAQ guidance related to the SVOG program. The FAQs are reorganized for clarity, and content that is new or substantially changed is marked with an asterisk. Among the new information included is a Question 31 in the Application section that provides a sample statement that applicants can use for their Certification of Need. Also, a clarification in Question 11 in the Revenue section indicates that the SBA will look to the entity’s calendar year 2019 earned revenues as the basis for determining the award amount.
The application portal for the SVOG program ran into technical difficulties almost immediately on April 8, with venue owners and other eligible businesses saying on social media that they could not upload supporting documents for their applications. The SBA then shut down the portal for repairs.
The SBA said last week that its vendors had fixed the root cause of the initial problems but that more in-depth risk analysis and stress tests identified other issues. The agency promised to reopen the portal by the end of the week of April 18 after its technology team and the portal vendors addressed and mitigated issues found in the testing process.
The SVOG program was created when the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, P.L. 116-260, was signed into law in late December. The Economic Aid Act appropriated $15 billion to the program.
The American Rescue Plan Act, P.L. 117-2, which became law March 11, appropriated an additional $1.25 billion to the SVOG, bringing the program’s funding to a total of $16.25 billion. At least $2 billion of the funding is reserved for eligible SVOG applicants with no more than 50 employees.
Entities eligible to apply for an SVOG include operators of live venues, live performing arts organizations, museums, and movie theaters, as well as live venue promoters, theatrical producers, and talent representatives.
The American Rescue Plan Act amended the SVOG program so entities that apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (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. An interim final rule codified those changes with additional details.
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— Jeff Drew (Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com) is a JofA senior editor.