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Arkansas’ Studio Theatre has a denied Covid reduction grant overturned

The Studio Theatre in Little Rock, AR

Jennifer Schlesinger | CNBC

After months of limbo and mounting money owed, the Studio Theatre in Little Rock, Arkansas, obtained some welcome information from the Small Enterprise Administration in early February. The small nonprofit theater has had its denial for help by the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program overturned.

The SVOG program is a $16 billion fund that was created to maintain the stay leisure and humanities trade within the face of extreme losses as a result of pandemic. Whereas this system has helped many, it is also prompted an outcry from companies that imagine they have been eligible for help and wrongfully denied.

The Studio Theatre was featured in a CNBC investigation in early January. The theater had shuttered in March 2020 as a result of pandemic and didn’t absolutely reopen for a yr. It’s going through money owed accrued for hire, insurance coverage and extra. The theater stated it was initially denied a grant by the SBA in July 2021 as a result of it doesn’t pay its performers. However as a nonprofit, in accordance with the company’s personal pointers, that should not have made the theater ineligible — some extent dropped at gentle by CNBC’s reporting. Throughout a subsequent assessment, the Studio Theatre’s preliminary denial was upheld in August 2021.

On Feb. 4, the theater was informed through e-mail it ought to submit an up to date funds to the SBA and was notified through the SBA’s SVOG portal that its enchantment was permitted by the company, a lot to Treasurer Amanda Kennedy’s shock. Now, the theater is simply ready on funding. It had projected being eligible for some $135,000 in grants, and between an preliminary and supplemental grant, that’s about what she is anticipating to obtain.

After a yr of this curler coaster, for it to occur, I used to be simply completely overwhelmed. The dam burst. … After which there’s the pure elation of the belief that that is coming to fruition after so many hours of tears and toil,” Kennedy stated.

The theater had been contemplating taking authorized motion previous to this improvement, Kennedy stated.

Greater than two dozen lawsuits have been filed in opposition to the company by companies that imagine they have been incorrectly denied help beneath SVOG. An individual accustomed to the federal grant course of, who wasn’t approved to talk with the press, stated that whereas grant purposes are reviewed by people adhering to standardized standards, particular person utility reviewers could use numerous thresholds or differing knowledge interpretations all through utility screening, programmatic or monetary assessment processes. Every might influence the grant awarding part that, in flip, might result in mistaken denials. The SBA’s coverage is to not touch upon particular person purposes or pending lawsuits.

Greater than 12,000 preliminary and supplemental grants have been funded, value greater than $13.6 billion. However greater than 4,500 candidates have been declined, in accordance with SBA knowledge from December 2021.

The company informed CNBC in December that it has invited greater than 5,000 candidates to enchantment SVOG decline selections, like Kennedy’s, and about 3,000 companies accepted. The SBA additionally invited round 2,000 grant recipients to have the quantity of their funding awards reconsidered, and about 800 grantees have accepted that supply. Nevertheless, the company did not specify what number of candidates had a previous determination upheld or what number of have been awarded extra funding.

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