A critical $16.25 billion grant program to sustain thousands of small creative venues that haven’t been able to open since the pandemic began has yet to deliver a cent of relief four months after passage, due to delays and faulty technology at the Small Business Administration (SBA). A website constructed to take grant applications closed last week after only four hours online, because of constant crashes and an inability to intake documents. It has not been restored and there’s no timetable for its return….
The disastrous situation is an example of how passing a bill is only the beginning of the policy process. Too many pundits have skipped right ahead to measuring President Biden for Mount Rushmore based on one piece of emergency legislation. But he will likely rise or fall on implementation; if beloved music venues and theaters close across the country because the SBA can’t manage a functioning website, all the legislation in the world won’t matter.
By Chris Castle
The eight most terrifying words are “We’re from Washington and we’re here to help.” Notwithstanding the appropriation of billions in revenue, the SBA’s application portal for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant is still not up and running. This means that at least hundreds of venues that are on the verge of collapse or have collapsed can’t get the money that Congress appropriated, or even apply to get those funds.
Remember, this grant program is not on the magnitude of the Affordable Care Act launch catastrophe or the nonexistent musical works database. The SVOG is a relatively manageable number of potential applicants by comparison. And yet they still can’t get out of their own way. Rest assured, everyone at the SBA will get their paycheck this week, their overhead will be paid for, no problem. And somewhere, someplace in the federal government’s apparatus sits billions of dollars to save our culture. And sits. And sits.
The site was supposed to launch a week ago on April 8 which was itself after months of delay. It’s no wonder the the SBA Inspector General issued a scathing report calling out the organization for mismanagement of the SVOG program–before it even launched.
So you can know two things–there’s no way to know when the money will be paid but there is a way to know that no one–and I mean not a soul–will be held accountable. They can have all the reports they want, but nothing ever happens with these things. They’re from Washington and you can embrace the suck.