Entertainment venues that have closed or suffered financial losses from the pandemic can begin lining up to apply for relief from the federal government. Free money of up to $10 million per venue is available.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is opening the application process Thursday for businesses to apply for funding support under the agency's Shuttered Venues Operators Grants program. Grants are available for live venue operators or promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organizations, museums, movie theaters and talent representatives, among others.
Though the application portal opens Thursday, interested venues should start the process immediately: there are several requirements that must be met before an application can be submitted.
To be eligible, a business must have been operating as of Feb. 29, 2020.
The program, which includes more than $16 billion in grants for shuttered venues, is part of the economic relief for small businesses that became law in December.
Venues are eligible for awards of up to $10 million and the federal government estimates the average grant will be about $1 million.
Even entertainment businesses that have received Paycheck Protection Program loans are eligible for the grants – though the amount they are eligible for could be reduced by the PPP loan amount if the paycheck loan was received after Dec. 27. The PPP loan will have no effect on a grant if the loan was made before Dec. 27.
The program has guidelines for SBA to distribute the money to make sure smaller venues and those that have suffered the greatest losses under the pandemic are given priority treatment.
For example, SBA is reserving at least $2 billion for entities that have less than 50 employees. And, during the first two weeks of the program, venues that have suffered a 90% or greater revenue loss from April-December 2020 will receive funding first.
Then participation continues based on revenue loss: Those with 70% or greater will be funded for the next 14 days. The pattern continues until venues with losses of 25% or greater are funded.
The application process is substantially different from PPP loan submissions, when applications had to be submitted through financial institutions.
Venues must set up an account and apply on their own. To begin, a business must register in the government's System for Award Management at sam.gov.
In addition, the organization must have a Dun & Bradstreet DUNS number, which is a unique identifier for a business. If your organization does not have one, a DUNS number can be set up at dnb.com or by calling 866-705-5711. The process takes about a week but may be longer as interest in the venue grants accelerates.
Once those basics are in place, venues can apply for grants.
An important note: you're on your own in applying for the grant. SBA officials caution they cannot help or offer support in the application process.
It's official: the Paycheck Protection Program will remain open for an additional two months. Last Tuesday, President Biden signed the PPP extension into law.
That means that small businesses now have until May 31 to continue applying for the loans, which cover a wide range of expenses and losses that companies have experienced as they cope with covid-19. Everything from rent and utilities to costs related to protective equipment for employees is covered. The loans are completely forgivable.
The extension also gives SBA, which is administering the program, until the end of June to approve those loans in the pipeline.
Through the end of March, nearly 32,000 PPP loans have been given to Arkansas' small businesses, reaching $1.2 billion. SBA has approved 8.7 million loans valued at $734 billion nationwide.
STRATEGIC PLANNING HELP
Small businesses in Craighead, Crittenden and Mississippi counties can find help with strategic planning through the state's smart growth accelerator program.
The multiweek program begins Wednesday and is available for businesses that have been operating for at least one year but no more than five. Support is offered through the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center's office at Arkansas State University.
Participation is free and sessions will be held online via Zoom. The program offers support and guidance to help small businesses complete and implement a strategic growth plan. Sessions include group meetings and one-on-one counseling.
There are three sessions, one each in Spring, Summer and Fall. Information is available at asbtdc.org.
Registration is now open for the 2021 Arkansas rural development conference, established by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to improve the quality of life in rural communities.
The event is scheduled for Oct. 19-21 at the Red Wolf Convention Center in Jonesboro. Last year's event was canceled because of the covid-19 pandemic.
Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said the conference provides an "opportunity to learn, network and share best practices as we work together to ultimately improve the economy across the state."
Planned breakout session topics include: the state's broadband program, federal grant resources, cyber security and information about resources available for minority- and women-owned small businesses.
Information is available at arkansasedc.com.
Agriculture-related businesses have an opportunity to promote their products and services at the upcoming Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture meeting.
The meeting is scheduled for June 5-9 in Little Rock under the heading: "Empowering the Global Future of Food, Fiber and Forestry."
Six levels of sponsorship opportunities are available, beginning at $100 for individuals and rising to $20,000 for organizations that will get a title sponsorship for an evening event, eight free tickets to attend all events and recognition on the website.
Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward is president of the organization, which includes commissioners and secretaries of agriculture from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virgin Islands, Virginia and West Virginia.
The group promotes American agriculture through public-policy initiatives and agriculture-related businesses and programs.
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