Raskin Meets With Shuttered Entertainment Venues Serving Maryland’s 8th District, Announces Federal Grant Funding Opportunity

Local venues can apply here for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program starting on Thursday

April 7, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) hosted a virtual roundtable with representatives from Round House Theatre of Montgomery County, New Spire Arts of Frederick County, and the Historical Society of Carroll County to discuss how their operations have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and how the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program can help them. Eligible venues can apply for the SVOG Program starting tomorrow, Thursday, April 8th, 2021. Click here to watch the roundtable.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program was established by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act and amended by the American Rescue Plan Act to provide more than $16 billion in financial relief for eligible venues affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to ensure that smaller venues are able to get the help they need, a $2 billion pot of funding is reserved for eligible applicants that have 50 or fewer full-time employees.

“According to Americans for the Arts, before the pandemic, there were 13,000 creative businesses in Maryland that generated $12 billion a year and employed nearly 80,000 people,” said Congressman Raskin. “Now, the vast majority of these businesses are suffering and nearly 50,000 workers have become unemployed during the pandemic. That's staggering. We know that the creative sector is often a spur and a bridge to other vital economic sectors, driving dollars in travel, tourism, hospitality. So it's a serious problem for the whole economy, and I'm glad that we've gotten together to talk about the solution. The SBA Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program is going to provide essential aid to creative businesses that drive our economy and employ our people.”

“We have accessed the PPP loan, and Montgomery County and the State of Maryland have been generous, but we're staring down a $1.5 million budget deficit for the coming year,” said Ed Zakreski, Managing Director of Round House Theatre in Montgomery County. “So this grant is essential to let us start planning for a return to in-person performance in the fall. We have to return our industry to full employment. Those of us at Round House right now are the lucky ones. We did have to furlough six of our staff members for six months, but as of now, all of our full-time employees are back employed. But we only have two of our part-time employees. The rest of them have lost their hours, and all of the artists, the actors, directors, designers, stage managers, teaching artists in our education programs, they've been mostly out of work for the entire year, and they're the heart of everything we do to achieve our mission. They're really hurting right now… So what we really need is the financial stability to get back to in-person performance, and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant just does that for us. Like you said, Congressman, the arts are an economic driver. When we return to in-person performance, our patrons are going to increase their patronage of the businesses around us like the restaurants that are struggling. I also just want to add this as a huge step for our industry because for the first time, the federal government recognizes the performing arts as a small business, each organization. That's vital because like you said, we're an economic driver. You mentioned the state figures. On the national level, it's $166 billion of economic activity from the performing arts across our country, and 4.6 million jobs. That's not a luxury. That's essential to the American economy.”

“New Spire Arts is somewhat unique in that we're an incipient organization,” said Gerard Gibbs, Executive Director of New Spire Arts in Frederick County. “We opened in January ‘19.  The venue is a black box theater and there was a need in the community for a fully functional black box theater. The community came together and invested $5 million in the construction of this facility… We were just about to unveil an entire year of presenter series that was going to form the base of our of our ongoing support. Then COVID hit. We suspended all the venue rentals, all the programs, and retrenched at that point. PPP did help us through June 2020, but after that, I was in a position where I had to lay off two full-time and two part-time employees, and since July, up until recently last month, the organization was essentially a one man show… My hope is that the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant will help sustain us through the rest of 2021 and 2022 to put us on a secure footing as we move in place to resume operations, even if it may be at a reduced scale. Again, we were just about to embark on a plan to lay the foundation of our philanthropic base. So this type of funding is very crucial for our organization as we look to get back on our feet on a very slow pace.”

"We're small, we have expenses of about $350,000 a year, but we are the largest Carroll County historical venue,” said Kristen McMasters, Interim Executive Director of the Historical Society of Carroll County. “So we support all the smaller venues like the Union Bridge Railroad Museum and Manchester's historical downtown museums. So we try very hard to be the place where you can talk to a real curator, to talk about your textiles, or you can talk to someone about cross-posting your activities with other Carroll County historical activities. We try to be the team lead for the entire county. When COVID hit, we had to cancel a lot of our income generating activities, like all our campus tours were cut. There were no schools open, so there were no busloads of kids coming to visit our galleries. All our rentals had to be suspended…. So we're looking at a cliff right now of $168,000 this year, and we've already cashed in all our grants. We're successful in our grants and the state allowed us to convert some of it to operating. Some grants are not convertible, but some were. We're still looking at a terrible, terrible cliff.”

Local venue operators can get more information on how to apply here.

Who can apply:

  • Live venue operators or promoters
  • Theatrical producers
  • Live performing arts organization operators
  • Relevant museum operators, zoos and aquariums who meet specific criteria
  • Motion picture theater operators
  • Talent representatives
  • Each business entity owned by an eligible entity that also meets the eligibility requirements

Click here for more information about who can apply.

Applicants must have been in operation as of February 29, 2020. A venue or promoter who received a PPP loan on or after December 27, 2020, will have the SVOG reduced by the PPP loan amount. For an eligible entity in operation on January 1, 2019, grants will be for an amount equal to 45% of their 2019 gross earned revenue or $10 million, whichever is less. For an eligible entity that began operation after January 1, 2019, grants will be for the average monthly gross earned revenue for each full month you were in operation during 2019 multiplied by six or $10 million, whichever is less.

Venue operators can use their grants for specific expenses, including but not limited to:

  • Payroll costs
  • Rent payments
  • Utility payments
  • Insurance payments

Click here for a complete list of how venue operators can use their grants.