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(Credit: Alani Cruz)

Music

Music promoters have "no choice" but to sue American Small Business Association over rejected Covid relief

@SamWKemp

A year after the US Small Business Administration (SBA) launched its Covid-19 relief program for venues affected by the pandemic, the body is facing more than 60 lawsuits from music promoters

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program was introduced in December 2020, with applications for a slice of the $16.25 billion grant opening in April 2021. The money was intended for independent promoters, movie theatres, talent agencies and other cultural centres that could prove they lost 90% of their revenue during the pandemic.

However, many of the applicants have said that, although they met the criteria, their requests for support were denied. Some business owners said their rivals were given access to support when they weren’t, putting them at a disadvantage.

Speaking in a recent interview, Michael Savas, CEO of Superfan Live, said: “I continue to be shocked at the SBA’s inability to properly review a case file and make an expeditious decision.” Savas’ business, which manages VIP experiences for music acts, “spent over nine months waiting for a response from the SBA, only to be wrongly denied with every appeal.”

Savas is among those who have decided to take the SBA and its administrator, Isabella Casillas Guzman, to court. The CEO has claimed that the body’s decision to deny his business funds was “unsupported by substantial evidence”.

When asked why so many requests for grants had been denied, the SBA’s Diedra Henry-Spires told the NME: “We continue to be open and responsive, inviting over 5,000 applicants to appeal SVOG decline decisions and over 2,000 grant recipients to have their awards reconsidered while offering additional support and resources to current applicants and our nearly 13,000 SVOG grant recipients.”

Despite the pending litigation, many remain convinced that the “SBA is trying to do the right thing.” According to Savas, the main issue is that the SVOG program has proven to be “grossly ineffective.”

“Regardless of the difficulties I have had so far,” he continued. “I still have faith in the people and executives within the SBA.”