Representative Craig Leads More Than 200 House Colleagues in Effort to Release Critical Funds for Shuttered Venues

June 16, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN), Roger Williams (R-TX), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), and Dean Phillips (D-MN) led more than 200 of their House colleagues in a bipartisan letter to Administrator Isabel Guzman of the Small Business Administration urging immediate action to stabilize and improve the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, which provides emergency assistance grants to venues that were unable to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The rollout of the SVOG program has been plagued by technical challenges and persistent delays. Since launching the program in April, the SBA has approved roughly 400 grants as of June 14 – despite receiving more than 14,000 applications. In Minnesota, only 3 businesses that applied for the SVOG program have received grants. In their letter, Craig and her colleagues requested a detailed explanation of ongoing issues with the program and demanded the SBA expedite the release of relief funding to struggling venues across the country. 

“The slow pace is becoming increasingly untenable for the small businesses in our districts. Their banks have threatened to call in the full amount of small business loans, they do not have the funds to pay their landlords full rent, and they cannot retain staff,” wrote the Members. “We are hearing from venue operators who are days away from closing their doors if these funds are not sent soon. These small businesses not only provide good jobs and contribute economically to our local communities, they contribute to the spirit and local culture as well. We must act now.”

“Our members are still at grave risk of going under while $16 billion waits for them,” said National Independent Venue Association Executive Director Rev. Moose. "Emergency relief requires urgency. It has been 6 months since the law passed and 45 days since our members submitted applications, so we're truly grateful that our Congressional champions are pressing the SBA for action now to save our stages. Our small businesses, employees, and communities depend in it.”

The program, which is administered by the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance, was originally created as part of the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act last December. The program includes over $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues, and also received additional funding from the American Rescue Plan Act earlier this year. Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million.

On April 8th, the program’s portal crashed, halting applications for nearly three weeks. Even after relaunching the application portal, there have been significant delays in the processing of applicants and the awarding of funds. According to the Office of Disaster Assistance, as of June 14, the SBA has only approved 411 grants out of the over 14,000 applications submitted, and nearly half of the applications have not yet reached the review stage.

Representatives Craig, Williams, Houlahan and Phillips were joined in the letter by Representatives Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (D-NC), Mark E. Amodei (R-NV), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Donald J. Bacon (R-NE), Karen Bass (D-CA), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-GA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mike Bost (R-IL), Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Julia Brownle (D-CA), Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN), Tim Burchett (R-TN), Cori Bush (D-MO), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), John R. Carter (R-TX), Ed Case (D-HI), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Judy Chu (D-CA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine M. Clark (D-MA), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Jason Crow (D-CO), John Curtis (R-UT), Sharice L. Davids (D-KS), Warren Davidson (R-OH), Danny K. Davis (NP-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Susan K. DelBene (D-WA), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Val Demings (D-FL), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Byron Donalds (R-FL), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Ron Estes (R-KS), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Bill Foster (D-IL), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Andrew R. Garbarino (R-NY), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (D-IL), Jared Golden (D-ME), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Jim Hagedorn (R-MN), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Jim Himes (D-CT), Ashley Hinson (R-IA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Bill Huizenga (D-MI), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Fred Keller (R-PA), Robin L. Kelly (D-IL), Daniel T. Kildee (D-MI), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Ron Kind (D-WI), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), S. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Conor Lamb (D-PA), James R. Langevin (D-RI), Rick Larsen (D-WA), John B. Larson (D-CT), Bob Latta (R-OH), Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), Andy Levin (D-MI), Mike Levin (D-CA), Ted W. Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Brian Mast (R-FL), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), David B. McKinley P.E. (R-WV), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Gregory M. Meeks (D-NY), Peter Meijer (R-MI), Grace Meng (D-NY), Dan Meuser (R-PA), Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Alex X. Mooney (R-WV), Blake Moore (R-UT), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Marie Newman (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Scott Peters (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Bill Posey (R-FL), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), David E. Price (D-NC), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Kathleen M. Rice (D-NY), Tom Rice (R-SC), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Deborah K. Ross (D-NC), David Rouzer (R-NC), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam), John P. Sarbanes (D-MD), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Terri A. Sewell (D-AL), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Tom Tiffany (R-WI), Dina Titus (D-NV), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Paul D. Tonko (D-NY), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Michael R. Turner (R-OH), Lauren Underwood (D-IL), Fred Upton (R-MI), David G. Valadao (R-CA), Beth Van Duyne (R-TX), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Susan Wild (D-PA), John Yarmuth (D-KY)

 

You can find the full text of the letter PDF iconhere and copied below.

 

June 16, 2021

The Honorable Isabel Guzman

Administrator

US Small Business Administration

409 3rd St SW

Washington, D.C. 20416

 

Dear Administrator Guzman,

We write today to urge the Small Business Administration to expedite the release of funds to beneficiaries of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program and provide answers to the questions below in a timely manner.

For over a year, we have consistently heard from venue operators about the unprecedented and unsustainable economic impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had on their small businesses. This community was relieved when the SVOG program was created in the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act in December of 2020 and additional funding was added as a part of the American Rescue Plan.

However, the rollout of this program and the release of funds is of great concern to us and many of our constituents. In addition to the initial crash of the application portal on April 8th and delay of the opening to April 28th, there has been a significant delay in the processing of applicants and awarding of funds. According to the Office of Disaster Assistance, as of June 14, the SBA has only approved 411 grants out of the over 14,000 applications submitted, and nearly half of the applications have not yet reached the review stage.

The slow pace is becoming increasingly untenable for the small businesses in our districts. Their banks have threatened to call in the full amount of small business loans, they do not have the funds to pay their landlords full rent, and they cannot retain staff. We are hearing from venue operators who are days away from closing their doors if these funds are not sent soon. These small businesses not only provide good jobs and contribute economically to our local communities, they contribute to the spirit and local culture as well. We must act now.

We understand the complexity and difficulty of managing a program of this size; however, we request the disbursement of funds be expedited immediately.

In addition, we respectfully request answers to the following questions are made available to all Members and staff:

  1. What is causing the delay of processing applications and disbursement of funds? Is further action by Congress needed to help you address these issues?
  2. Since the Priority 1 Tier deadline has passed, will funding be awarded retroactively to those who didn’t receive funding in the Priority 1 Tier? 
  3. When can businesses expect to receive these funds? What plans are in place to communicate a likely timeline for disbursement of funding to afford small venue operators the opportunity to appropriately plan and respond to their individual needs?
  4. Would you and the SBA staff host a briefing for Members and staff on this program and the issues with its implementation?

Thank you and your staff for your hard work to implement the various SBA programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know you are committed to serving our small businesses and we look forward to working together to ensure these funds are distributed and these issues are addressed efficiently.

Sincerely,