With a global pandemic raging, live music venues across the country were forced to shut their door, and many have permanently closed unable to survive the uncertainty of COVID-19.
But as the end of 2020 neared, Congress stepped in to help performance venues across the country, allocating nearly $16 billion in federal grants as part of a $900 billion COVID relief bill.
Six months later, though, industry experts say only about 90 performance venues across the country have received grant letters from the federal government. About 14,000 more are still waiting for the money they were promised.
"For so many of the venues, it’s demoralizing, it’s frightening because they’ve exhausted the funds they did have," said Audrey Fix Schaefer, with the National Independent Venue Association.
The Small Business Administration is in charge of handing out the funds. Back in April, they launched an application portal online, but it crashed within hours because of technical problems. All the while, live music venues are struggling to get back on their feet.
Many venues need the money to help pay staffing costs or booking fees that help secure acts or musical groups.
"It’s not COVID which is keeping us closed now, it’s the fact that the money hasn’t flowed which is keeping us closed now and it shouldn’t be like this," Fix Schaefer noted.
There's a reason Congress was so eager to help struggling venues. An estimated 12 million people across the country have jobs tied to live events. For every $1 spent on a ticket at small venues, a total of $12 in economic activity is generated within communities on restaurants, hotels, taxis, and retail establishments nearby.
Even as Americans begin to return to shuttered stages across the country, not all of them are getting the help they need.