NewsLocal News


Slow SBA grant rollout leaves Tulsa venues waiting for relief

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 12:15:19-04

TULSA, Okla. — As life slowly returns to normal, the entertainment industry is still struggling to recover as it waits for relief.

Shows are being held at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center and movies are shown at Circle Cinema. A year ago, neither was happening.

“Going to the movies is more of an experience," said Stephanie LaFevers, executive director of the Circle Cinema Foundation. "It’s an event. And people miss that opportunity to come together with other folks.”

The COVID-19 pandemic pretty much shut down the entertainment industry. Mark Frie, CEO of the Tulsa PAC, said it forced him to lay off nearly 90 percent of the Tulsa PAC staff.

“It was a horrible decision to have to make, but we had to make it because in the performing arts world, ticket sales drive your revenue," Frie said.

To help out, Congress passed the “Save our Stages” Act which was signed into law late last year. The U.S. Small Business Administration is dispersing the money through the “Shuttered Venue Operators Grant” program. But, it’s taking time doing so.

According to the latest SBA report from Monday, of the more than 14,000 applications submitted, only 411 grants have been awarded. Only three of those grants went to businesses here in Oklahoma.

“I feel very appreciative of the fact that this money is even available," Frie said. "It’s going to help a ton of organizations. So, I don’t want to come across that, you know, sba needs to get their act together, but they need to get their act together.”

Frie said it’s not about how much money they will receive, but waiting to know if they’ll get any at all. He said he has a tiered approach to rehiring the staff he had to lay off last year, but there are two different models for it. One if they get the grant money and one if they don’t.

“It’s hard to make and solid plans and get budgets approved by the board without this knowledge," Frie said. "So we went through the work and actually presented two different budgets so that we can have the flexibility to act as soon as we know.”

At Circle Cinema, LaFevers is thankful but still waiting for relief. She checks her emails every day hoping help is on the way soon.

“It’ll just help us offset some of the expenses that we had to go ahead and cover last year, even though we didn’t have a lot of money coming in," LaFevers said. "And then keep us afloat as we kind of build back up to full steam.”

Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere --