US sites sue over rejected Covid relief

More than 60 lawsuits have been filed against the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG), the $16 billion aid launched by the US federal government to help performance venues survive the pandemic.

A year after the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) rolled out the Covid-19 relief program, the agency faces dozens of ongoing lawsuits from companies who claim they have been unfairly viewed deny millions of relief, according to Billboard.

According to the aggrieved sites, the SBA denied their requests without a valid reason or proper explanation, putting some companies at a significant disadvantage compared to their rivals who received aid. Lawyers involved in the cases say denial rates under SVOG “far exceed typical government grant programs.”

Concert Investor LLC, a Tennessee company that produced shows for pilots like Twenty One, Little Big Town, OAR, is among the companies suing.

Citing a 94% drop in revenue during the pandemic, the company requested nearly $5 million in SVOG assistance. However, the SBA ruled that the company did not meet the criteria to be a concert producer, saying the company “at best” was only “serving the needs” of performers by providing lighting and sound technology.

At least 33 lawsuits were still pending in federal court as of last week, according to a filing by the SBA

In a motion filed in court Monday, May 2, lawyers for Concert Investor asked a federal judge to grant the company final judgment in its case, arguing that the SBA had “ignored” extensive evidence of its eligibility. and had unfairly granted subsidies to direct competitors. who provide exactly the same services.

“This disparate treatment has placed Concert Investor at a serious and worsening competitive disadvantage relative to other concert producers who can use their SVOG awards to restore and grow their businesses while Concert Investor is deprived of federal assistance. to which he is also eligible,” the company wrote. The SBA will soon file its own brief and the judge will rule on the case in the coming months.

Some of the lawsuits, however, may be in the process of being resolved. Last week, the SBA said it would reconsider denying $497,000 in aid to Superfan Live Inc., which provides VIP experiences at concerts by artists like Bon Jovi, Genesis and Journey. The agency asked a federal judge for additional time so he could “thoroughly review the allegations in the complaint before issuing a new decision.”

At least 33 lawsuits were still pending in federal court as of last week, according to a filing by the SBA.

Since its debut in April 2021, SVOG has distributed just over $11 billion to more than 13,000 companies in a first wave; a second round of additional grants awarded an additional $3.4 billion to more than 9,000 companies.

The SVOG, also known as the Save Our Stages Act, is part of a $1.9 billion US bailout that was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021.

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