The federal Save Our Stages Act was meant to provide a financial bridge for music and arts venues to stay open until more regular programming can resume once the pandemic winds down. But the program has not gone according to plan says David Dayen, executive editor of the American Prospect, a liberal-leaning news organization reporting on politics and public policy.
Dayen told Texas Standard that not a cent of the $16.5 billion allotted in the bill has gone to any venues. The program has been racked by glitches in its application system, and it took the Small Business Administration months to get the program up and running in the first place.
Now, the application process is on indefinite hold. Dayen says without the grants, many live music venues will have to close, declare bankruptcy or sell to a larger company to absorb their losses. Many will also likely face eviction – all this so close to a time when many could start to reconsider reopening as more people get vaccinated.
“They’re just really just on a knife’s edge. These are organizations that promised their landlord said, ‘Hey, we we did everything right – we lobbied in Congress, we got a program together to get these grants. You can hold off on any evictions because we’re getting this money,” Dayen said. “And then April 8 comes and goes, and they’re no closer to getting the money. And at some point, landlords are not going to want to wait anymore.”
Highlights from this segment:
– The Save Our Stages Act was passed in December 2020 under President Trump, and originally included $15 billion in federal grants to help arts and culture businesses stay afloat during the pandemic when so many of them had to temporarily shut their doors to the public. The bill grew to $16.5 billion in March 2021.
– Dayen says it’s possibly the largest federal arts grant program in history. Only Works Progress Administration programs during the Great Depression rival it.
– When the application website opened in early April, Dayen says it repeatedly crashed and business owners weren’t able to upload required documents. The website has not been operational since April 8.