Fifty-Nine small businesses involved in the performing arts throughout 36 Vermont cities and towns have received more than $18.7 million in federal grants as of Aug. 3.
“We were thrilled to learn that we were among the many worthy venues in our home state of Vermont and across the nation who were awarded a Shuttered Venues Operators Grant. This infusion of funding will further stabilize our organization as we continue to navigate the pandemic and plan to resume in-person operations as soon as it is safe to do so for our audiences,” said Alissa Mello, Managing Director of Sandglass Theater in Putney. Sandglass Theater, which started in 1982 is a 60-seat theater specializing in puppetry.
The SVOG Program is overseen by the Small Business Administration and its purpose is to provide emergency grants to eligible live venues affected by COVID-19. More than $16.2 billion was appropriated for grants via the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. Eligible applicants could qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue up to a maximum amount of $10 million for a single grant.
The average SVOG award in Vermont was $320,000. The lowest was $3,294 and highest was $2,257,489. Eligible small businesses included theater companies, movie theaters, talent representatives, promoters and museums.
“What impressed me the most is the number of small venues in rural towns that received awards. We knew the more notable venues in Chittenden and Washington Counties would apply and most likely receive funding, but to see the number of grants awarded to ones in Windham and Caledonia counties is particularly gratifying because they too needed access to this capital,” said Darcy Carter, SBA Vermont District Director.
The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant emergency assistance was vital because live venues were the first to shutter during the pandemic such as the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium in St. Johnsbury.
“Although the entire organization was affected by the pandemic, the planetarium was really hard hit. We did not reopen it until this past June, so it was closed for 15 months. The funds will allow us to upgrade both the equipment and programming in the planetarium, such that we’ll be able to get back to the previous level of programming, and hopefully beyond, much quicker than we could have otherwise,” said Adam Kane executive director of the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.
SVOG funds could be used for a variety of expenses including payroll, rent, mortgage, utilities, taxes, insurance, and refunding ticket holders for events canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“I referred to the SVOG as our salvation in board meetings going back months. We certainly met the grant criteria, but it wasn’t until the award notice came through that we knew that we had a safety net moving into the future. The grant provides much-needed operational funding that will make up for some of the lost income we’ve seen since March 2020 and it will see us through 2021,” said Dan Casey, Director of the Barre Opera House.
The program’s roots stem directly from Vermont. It was Rep. Peter Welch who introduced the original bill, The Save Our Stages Act, in July 2020 and later became the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.
In a joint statement recently released by U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Congregational Delegation said, “Our independent live music and entertainment venues not only bring joy and energy to our downtowns and communities, they are economic engines that help make Vermont such a special place to live and visit.”
The SVOG portal remains open and funding is still available for all eligible applicants. To apply or for more information about the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant visit www.sba.gov/svog.