Wilmington venue reacts to new COVID-19 grant program for the arts

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Some relief is coming to Cape Fear area entertainment venues and arts organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been more than 10 months since many businesses across North Carolina were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19, and many of those doors remain shut.

As cases rage on, some of those businesses are finally seeing some much needed assistance.

The $15 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program is part of the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, signed into law on December 27, 2020. It will be administered by the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Disaster Assistance.

It applies to live venue operators or promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organization operators, relevant museums, zoos and aquariums, movie theaters, and talent representatives.

The goal is to help places like the Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College (CFCC), which had to cancel or reschedule nearly 200 shows due to the pandemic.

‘We are reliant on ticket sales and on the generosity of donors to operate,” said Shane Fernando, CFCC’s Vice President of Advancement and the Arts. “So without these funds our reopening and ramping up would be very very slow, and this will help get us on our feet.”

Fernando was recently appointed Regional Outreach Coordinator for the National Independent Venues Association for North and South Carolina. He is working with local organizations and the SBA to help get these funds distributed.

“We’re asking organizations to pull their financials for the calendar year of 2019 and the calendar year of 2020, particularly look at your earned revenue over those periods of time,” Fernando said. “We are waiting on the the actual definition of earned revenue from the Small Business Administration for what they’ll be using for the grant.”

Grants will be up to 45 percent of lost revenue from 2019 to 2020, maxing out at $10 million.

Fernando says while the Wilson Center has been able to get by thanks to donations and things like drive-in concerts, not all venues have been so fortunate.

“We have lost a number of organizations already across our state,” Fernando said. “I would recommend that our folks who are interested in this funding to apply to NIVA for membership which is free.”

Arts organizations and venues can sign up for the National Independent Venue Association here, which Fernando says is the best place to get information about the grants.

He says to also check that your organization has a DUNS number, and set up an account with SAM.GOV.

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