While I am sure a lot of performing arts venues have been closely paying attention to news about Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program designed to help arts organizations impacted by Covid shutdowns, you probably wouldn’t have expected a major update to a government department’s FAQ document to be rolled out on a Sunday.
There was a major update to the SVOG FAQ on Sunday.
It isn’t difficult to identify what information is new because anything that didn’t appear in the February 12 update has a * next to it.
This version answers a lot of questions I have heard asked in webinars, including specific information about the eligibility of performing arts venues run by university, state and local governments. Similarly, there is detailed information which apply to museums.
The February 28 version also provides new definitions for a lot of terms like museum, promoter, regular programming, theatrical producer, performing arts organization operator, cover charge, mixing equipment, lighting rig, sound engineer, etc.
The question of what constituted fixed seating came up a lot in webinars I attended because it is a significant requirement to receive funding in some instances. In this version they added the following information:
*Would heavy bleachers pushed back against the wall when not in use but never removed from a theater qualify as fixed seating?
Yes. Any cumbersome seating not easily or regularly removed from a theater will be considered fixed.
While there is a requirement that people be paid fairly in the legislation, earlier versions of the FAQ explained that volunteer labor did not exclude a venue from apply if the staff managing the venue were paid. This means that many community theatre organizations may also be eligible for SVOG funding.
The FAQ that illustrates this best is probably the following, which also appeared in earlier versions:
If a venue’s box office is staffed by volunteers is it eligible to apply? Yes. Among the criteria included in the live venue operator or promoter definition is a requirement that a qualifying venue must engage at least one individual to perform at least two of the following roles: sound engineer, booker, promoter, stage manager security personnel, and box office manager. The Economic Aid Act does not reference any hired box office staff other than a box office manager and does not absolutely require even that position. As such, the use of volunteers to staff a venue’s box office would not preclude it from being eligible to apply for an SVOG.
There is also some oddly specific questions that makes me think the legislation was intentionally written to provide eligibility to a corporate entity.
Does a live venue operator who qualifies as an “eligible person or entity” remain eligible for an SVOG if that live venue operator has a minority investor (less than 51% ownership) that has more than 500 employees, locations in 11 or more states, and locations in 2 or more countries? Is that the only ownership/control-related grounds for disqualifying someone?
Yes. The Economic Aid Act speaks only of majority ownership and control in the context of the disqualifying conditions related to being listed on a stock exchange or to the geographic scope of operations and number of employees. There are no other control requirements in the statute.
If you hadn’t researched SVOG funding or didn’t think you qualified, the latest version of the FAQ should provide a greater degree of clarity than any previous version. (Though the additional detail may dash the hopes generated by the previous vagueness.)