A new grant program for shuttered live events venues opened today, only to promptly shut down due to technical difficulties.
Months after it passed as part of the Save Our Stages Act, the Small Business Administration's Shuttered Venue Operators Grant opened for applications this morning. The program will dole out over $16 million in grants to venues across the country that have been unable to operate during the pandemic.
Within hours, however, the SBA closed the application portal due to unspecified technical difficulties. A reopening date has not yet been announced.
"SBA is working closely with the portal vendors to reopen as soon as possible," the administration wrote in a brief announcement on its website. "SBA will share advance notice of the time and date before the reopening so all applicants can be prepared and to ensure equitable access."
The agency also addressed the botched rollout in a Twitter thread, writing that "[t]his decision was not made lightly as we understand the need to get relief quickly to this hard-hit industry."
Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer championed the program as a lifeline for Portland music venues, which were some of the first businesses to close due to the pandemic and will likely be the last to reopen.
"Portland wouldn't be Portland without our live music venues," the congressman said in a press release. "These grants will help shuttered venue operators put paychecks back in workers' pockets, avoid permanent closures, cover rent payments, and help our local economy recover."
Entertainment venues have often felt ignored by pandemic relief and guidelines. At the beginning of the pandemic, a coalition of local and national venues successfully lobbied for industry-specific financial relief. Last week, more than 40 Oregon venue owners signed a letter to Gov. Kate Brown asking for reopening guidelines.