After a brutal and long past 16 months, many major cultural organizations and venues in the Quad-Cities have been awarded badly-needed federal Covid relief, through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program of the Small Business Administration.

Quad-Cities Cultural Venues Win $5.4 Million in New Federal Covid Relief

Scott Mullen is executive director of the TaxSlayer Center.

As of July 19, $5.4 million has been approved in the region (out of $6.8 billion nationwide so far), including $2.3 million for the TaxSlayer Center, among the following grants:

Nationwide, of the total 15,209 applications submitted for $11.9 billion in SVOG funding, 8,967 have been awarded as of this week, according to the SBA, representing $6.8 billion in grants and an average of

Quad-Cities Cultural Venues Win $5.4 Million in New Federal Covid Relief

Brian Baxter is executive director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra.

$757,000 per award. In Illinois, $276.5 million in 336 grants have been approved so far, and Iowa has seen $37.9 million in funding for 105 grants.

“We did a lot of behind the scenes lobbying over the past year to help make this happen,” Scott Mullen, executive director of the TaxSlayer Center, said on Tuesday. “Tammy Koolbeck, who represents advocacy for the International Association of Venue Managers, played a key role. Also hats off to Rocky Jones and Kim McVey for their work on our submission.”

In December 2020, Congress approved the SVOG program, securing $16.1 billion in desperately-needed financial aid for thousands of business owners nationwide. Over six months after the SVOG program was

Quad-Cities Cultural Venues Win $5.4 Million in New Federal Covid Relief

Rick Palmer is executive director of the Adler Theatre and RiverCenter.

approved, and two months since applications opened, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) reported last month that less than one percent of applicants had received any funding.

The continuously delayed rollout of SVOG funding was continued, contentious issue for the Small Business Administration. After several false starts and technical snafus, applications finally opened April 26th, and of the estimated 4,910 small business owners who qualified for the first round of funding, only 90 were awarded grants as of June 9th, according to a piece at liveforlivemusic.com.

That led a bipartisan coalition of Senators led by the initial sponsors of the SVOG program (then known as the Save Our Stages Act) — Amy Klobuchar (D-MD), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — sent a letter to SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman, urging drastic improvements in the agency’s handling of the grant application process.

As of July 6, the SBA made much greater progress on issuing SVOG grants. Out of the total of 14,884 grant applications seeking $11.7 billion, 4,222 grants were then awarded, totaling $3.2 billion. The SBA typically calculated grant awards so everyone approved would receive 45 percent of 2019 earned revenue – which includes things like ticket sales, concessions and bar revenue, but not grants and donations — and grants were based on organization size, budget and past federal Covid-related support.

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Davenport’s RiverCenter and Adler Theatre are among the organizations that Tuesday were still waiting for funding approval, seeking about

Quad-Cities Cultural Venues Win $5.4 Million in New Federal Covid Relief

The TaxSlayer Center is at 1201 River Drive, Moline.

$1.5 million, said executive director Rick Palmer.

“It’s much, much needed,” he said Tuesday of SVOG. “We’ve been revenue short for months and months, and it’ll help us to be able to do more things. I’m hopeful we’re going to get it; we’re very much in need of it, We’re almost at the point where we’re putting stuff out that would be good, but our bank account is still pretty light. Bookings are looking very positive for the fall.”

“I’m pretty thrilled with having this relief going into next year,” Brian Baxter, executive director of the Q-C Symphony, said, noting SVOG-eligible organizations include any institution whose primary business is presenting concerts, theater, films, or other entertainment (like museums). “Every orchestra in the country qualified for it.”

“It’s a complicated formula that tells you what you were eligible for,” he said, adding he was glad the QCSO earned full funding. Its next major event is the Quad City Bank & Trust Riverfront Pops on Aug. 21, with music of the Rolling Stones. According to the SBA, a total of 1,052 SVOG applications have been declined.

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Quad-Cities Cultural Venues Win $5.4 Million in New Federal Covid Relief
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.