US venues denied the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant can now appeal their rejections

Venues turned away from the funding initiative will have two weeks to appeal their cases

Following last week’s report that nearly a fifth of US venue owners who applied for the federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) were rejected, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has now invited those affected to appeal their outcomes.

Billboard reports that venues turned away from the funding initiative – to which the US government has allocated over (£11.5billion) $16billion – will have two weeks to appeal their cases, during which time the funds, comprising up to $10million per grant, will be preserved.

More than 3,000 venues had their owners’ applications for the SVOG rejected, with no formal reasoning provided as to why. Instead, they were redirected to an 11-page “eligibility matrix” that detailed common reasons why the SBA might decline an applicant. According to Billboard, however, “some definitions, such as that for ‘live performers’, can be unclear”.

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A total of 3,142 invitations to appeal were reportedly issued, though at the time Billboard published its article, only 494 of those invitations had been accepted. It was noted that there would be no secondary appeal process for applicants who had their appeals denied.

As per the SBA’s website, it’s anticipated that “reversals of prior decisions will be rare”. A new reviewer will be allocated to each appeal “to see if [the SBA] made a mistake, if something else should have been done or [an applicant] should have received an award”.

Deidra Henry-Spires – the SBA’s senior advisor for COVID-19 programs – told Billboard that a process for appealing denied grants serves as “[a] second opportunity to plead your case with strong financial documentation that makes a good case for the American taxpayer, because we take our duty to protecting their funds incredibly, incredibly, seriously”.

Last October, it was predicted that 90 per cent of US venues could be lost without government funding, with an estimated 300 already closed in the last 14 months. The #SaveOurStages campaign was launched to help mitigate the devastation faced to America’s live music industry, receiving support from the likes of Miley Cyrus and the Foo Fighters.

That December, Spotify joined the cause with a donation of $500,000 to NIVA. But as the group’s Audrey Fix Schaefer told NME in June of this year, venues were still feeling “stressed and demoralised” as the promised government support had been rolled out too slowly, with many venues on the brink of closing.

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It’s hoped that venues will be able to amp up business with new measures implemented to ensure punters feel safe returning to live music events. Earlier this week, for example, Live Nation announced it will require all artists, crew and attendees to show evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19, or a negative test, at their venues and upcoming festivals in the US.

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