Do you manage a venue? Are you confused and concerned about applying for the Shuttered Venue Operator’s Grant (SVOG), especially as it relates to applying for the Paycheck Protection Program 2 (PPP2)?
Well, friend, you’re in good company! My name is Lara Smith (she/her) and I’m the managing director of Dad’s Garage Theatre in Atlanta. We are a nonprofit theatre specializing in improv and scripted comedy, and pre-pandemic our annual budget was nearly $2 million. Like many folks in the theatre industry, I have been anxiously awaiting clarification about SVOG and PPP2, patiently preparing for the programs’ experts to weigh in. Unfortunately, what I’ve learned is that there are no experts poised to swoop in, and no deus ex machina to explain it all for us. It’s up to us to figure it out and support one another—the one consistent lesson of this COVID experience.
It’s not like there are no resources out there, of course. Theatre Communications Group, for one, has been tracking these issues and helping leaders like myself make informed decisions. Thank goodness for Laurie Baskin and the Finance Director Chain following all of this! It’s truly been a lifesaver. Even so, over the last few weeks, I’ve read, digested, and weighed the ever-changing information relating to SVOG and PPP2, and it’s been quite overwhelming! Rather than rehash the complicated and stressful lead-up to the present (you all know just how byzantine this knot of regulations and deadlines has been), here’s the latest:
- It is very likely that the PPP2 deadline will be extended. Legislation needs to be passed by the House and the Senate, then signed by the president. That said, we are down to the wire on the original March 31 deadline.
- SVOG has announced they will begin taking applications April 8th—and, even better, venues can now apply for both PPP2 and SVOG. Phew! The compromise is now this: if you receive PPP2, that amount may be deducted from your SVOG award to prevent double dipping.
- You may encounter outdated paperwork and language when applying for PPP2, and you will have to navigate that with your banker. Simply put, you may be asked to certify that you won’t apply for SVOG if you apply for PPP2, even though this rule is no longer applicable.
Here’s my advice for those of you navigating these opportunities, based on what we’ve been through at Dad’s Garage:
- Keep track of the PPP Extension Act of 2021. If it passes the House and Senate and gets signed by President Biden, that means more breathing room for all of us as we figure out how to apply for these programs.
- If you haven’t already, check with your bank today to see when they are closing PPP applications. Even though the deadline may be extended, it does not mean your bank has to accept applications through that date.
- Before accepting PPP2, take into consideration where your state is in terms of reopening. If your governor decides it’s safe to open, your organization may need to reach a pre-pandemic number of full time equivalent employees in order for the loan to be fully forgivable. This may put your organization in a precarious position when it comes to how and when you reopen. These are questions you will need to clarify with your bank and board.
- When applying for PPP2, ask what your bank recommends regarding language certifying you won’t apply for the SVOG. Even though this is clearly outdated, it may be a snag in the application process you encounter.
- If you choose to submit a PPP2 application, do so immediately!
- Don’t forget your artists! Individual actors, designers, and other creative professionals may be eligible for PPP funds, based on their previous freelance earnings. Let your folks know about these opportunities!
- If you’re pursuing SVOG funds, start the application process here on April 8th!
- Take a deep breath. Realize that if no one is an expert on this process, then we all can be. You’re doing the best you can with some huge decisions. Keep it up!
- Remember that there are lots of people responsible for the organization and only one person who can take care of you. Take care of you.
This has been an incredibly challenging year to run an arts organization. The government support is unprecedented and incredibly generous, but these delays, changes, and questions have added additional stress to already near-burnout arts leaders, organizations, and artists struggling to persevere. Take care of yourself and your crew. That way, when we reopen, we’ll be making great theatre together once again!
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