By Chris Castle
We all breathed a bit easier when we heard that the $15 billion Save Our Stages legislation authored by Austin Rep. Roger Williams and Texas Senator John Cornyn had passed the Congress and was signed into law last December as part of the $2.3-trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. SOS is administered by the Small Business Administration and allows live performance venues, movie theaters, and talent agencies to apply for relief grants if they’ve lost at least 25% of their revenue due to the pandemic up to a maximum of $10 million. Venues employing fewer than 50 full-time (also known as every music venue I know of) can apply for a share of a $2 billion of the fund to cover payroll, rent, utilities, and insurance.
The problem is that the Small Business Administration has failed to implement an application process so that venues can even apply–and months are going by. As states reopen, thriving venues are going to be a big part of the economic recover, particularly in a state like Texas. What’s even more bizarre than the SBA not having an application process in place (or bridge loans or something) is that the City of Austin has managed to distribute millions to the Austin music community while waiting for the legislation, which Rep. Williams and Senator Cornyn got through Congress in record time–which may be because Austin wants to keep the title of “Live Music Capitol of the World” when the live music business reopens.
It is very difficult to understand why the SBA is taking so long to distribute appropriated funds for federal legislation that was bipartisan and not controversial. It’s not just me–Governor Abbot’s Texas Music Office s leading the charge to light a fire under the SBA.
If you want to let you views be known, you can write to the SBA at email@example.com contact your local members of Congress or your state and city economic development offices.
Here’s a letter from Texas Music Office Director Brendon Anthony to the head of the SBA asking for her to expedite the applications:
February 25, 2021
Tami Perriello, Acting Administrator
U.S. Small Business Administration
409 3rd St SW
Washington, DC 20416
Dear Acting Secretary Perriello:
Thank you for all that you do in service of the SBA, on behalf of the American people. And thank you for your organization’s steadfast work assisting small businesses across the state of Texas, and beyond, during the pandemic. At the TMO, we hear firsthand from our constituents that the daily work of the regional SBA offices has provided an invaluable lifeline of resources and information, supporting the livelihoods of countless hardworking Texans.
As Director of the Texas Music Office (TMO), a division of the Office of the Governor’s Economic Development & Tourism Office, my team and I represent the more than 210,000 constituents and their permanent jobs within the Texas music industry. We implore you to accelerate opening the application window for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Shuttered Venue Operators Grant in order to help provide a bridge to saving one of the first industries impacted by Covid -19 mitigation,and ultimately one of the last industries that will be able to fully re-open.
As of February 2020, combined, the music industry and music education in Texas directly accounted for $4.4 billion in annual earnings, and just over $ I 0.8 billion in annual economic activity. The ripple effects associated with the direct injection related to music business and music education in Texas bring the total impact to $8.8 billion in earnings and $27.3 billion in annual economic activity.
Although most music fans around the world are familiar with our state’s largest music brands like Austin City Limits Festival and the SXSW Music Conference, it’s the small venues and historic dancehalls where Texas musicians cut their teeth which are currently impacted by closure. These hallowed venues are the testing grounds for our chart-topping artists like Beyonce, Selena, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Travis Scott, and so many more.
As each week passes, we lose more and more small music venues to permanent closure. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant will be a crucial stopgap to helping our state’s music industry survive, providing the state’s music venues a bridge to help them weather this catastrophic event
On behalf of the Texas Music Office and its constituents from all across the state, please take the necessary steps to open applications for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant so that the Texas music industry and the thousands of individuals employed by the state’s small venues – may live to see another day, as the permanent closure of these venues would be immeasurable to our state’s economy and culture.
Director, Texas Music
Office Office of the Governor
The venues really need our help to pry loose the money from the SBA that has already been appropriated by Congress. I don’t ask for this often, but the Trichordist audience is very effective at contacting their governments. Remember, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org