Isabel Guzman is serving as administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and is in a key position to oversee the distribution of Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) funds to venues, promoters, agents and other actors in the live entertainment industry in desperate need.
Appointed to the position on March 17 by President Biden, Guzman was quickly thrust into the hot seat as the live industry pleaded for the aid promised in the Economic Aid to Hard Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act passed by Congress in December.
On April 8 the online portal for SVOG applications opened, but technical errors marred the event, rendering the site non-functional and forcing its shutdown after several hours. The SBA learned from its mistakes, however, and under Guzman’s leadership, it reopened the portal on April 26 in a much more functional manner.
While many in the industry voiced relief at finally being able to submit their application for SVOG funds, handwringing continues as many await a decision on whether they will receive aid and can thus rehire staff and get back to work.
By May 3, the SBA reported that 10,300 applications had been com¬pleted and an additional 12,238 had been started, meaning 22,538 applications for aid had been, or were being, submitted. Of the 10,300 that were completed, the majority were live venue operators or performers or live performing artis organization operators. The total amount of requested aid, once adjusted with deductions from Paycheck Protection Program funds, is $9.95 billion. After additional funding was provided in March, the program has $16.125 billion in total funds allocated for distribution among qualified applicants.
Moving forward, applications will be considered in three tiers of priority: Those with 90% or greater revenue loss between April and December 2020; 70% or greater loss; and 25% or greater loss.
Many are hoping that the SBA will provide aid in a timely manner, as was the case with PPP, and Guzman is the boss many will be pleading to.
Prior to her time at the SBA, Guzman was Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate, where she launched the Entrepreneurship Task Force to assist small businesses and startups. She also served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor in the SBA for President Obama.
Small businesses are very close to Guzman’s heart and she has a special interest in women-owned and led businesses.
“Today, in 2021, we’re making history,” Guzman wrote. “I know that in the years to come the wom¬en business owners of the future will look back and feel inspired by the perseverance, resilience, and grit that our nation’s 13 million women entrepreneurs have shown during this challenging time.”