Why Is Federal COVID Relief for Indie Cinemas and Music Venues Taking So Long? Blame Past Fraudsters

·1 min read

More than a month after the Small Business Administration opened applications for a $15 billion grant program to provide relief for movie theaters and other entertainment venues crippled by COVID-19, barely any applicants have received money.Lobbyists say that concern about fraud is the main reason why. When the Paycheck Protection Program was approved by Congress last year to provide immediate relief to businesses closed by the pandemic, headlines popped up of recipients who used millions in grants to buy luxury items like mansions and supercars. In the early weeks of his presidency, Joe Biden vowed to crack down on such fraud, and the grant program developed for shuttered entertainment venues was designed with that goal in mind.“In our latest talks with the SBA, we found out that the administration had created the program with the aim to have zero fraud and trained applicant reviewers to look at each grant request with the assumption that there was some sort of fraud there,” said Jackie Brenneman, general counsel for the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO). “Meanwhile, we have thousands of applicants — not just movie theaters we represent but other venues represented by our partners — that needed to get this...

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