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Arts & Culture

Ohio Arts Groups Anxiously Awaiting Relaunch of COVID Aid Portal

The Ohio Theatre, one of several operated by CAPA, was shuttered in March 2020, along with performance spaces and venues throughout Ohio and the US.
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
The Ohio Theatre, one of several operated by CAPA, was shuttered in March 2020, along with performance spaces and venues throughout Ohio and the US.

Arts organizations in Ohio and around the country are waiting for the relaunch of a system that will allow them to apply for billions in COVID relief – after it shut down on the day it was supposed to open for business in early April.

Thousands of workers in the arts have been laid off or let go during the pandemic, as arts organizations have struggled to pay mortgages and keep skeleton staff while preparing for the first opportunity to reopen.

The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts was among the tens of thousands of non-profits, companies, cinemas, performance spaces and venues that were online as the Shuttered Venue Operators portal to apply for $16.25 billion in COVID grants for the arts crashed.

CAPA president and CEO Chad Whittington is hoping as the Small Business Administration fixes its tech issues, it will retool the current application process for what used to be known as the Save Our Stages grant program.

“You could have some folks that get 100% of the grant they request and some folks that don’t get anything. And from my perspective, that’s a huge concern. We need the entire entertainment and arts community to come through this together," Whittington said.

A timeline to reopen the portal hasn’t been set, though the website indicates they're aiming for the end of this week.

But Whittington said with so many organizations needing funding, he's wondering if that huge pot of money will be enough – especially since most facilities and venues won’t be reopened till summer at the earliest.

“There are tens of thousands of arts and entertainment organizations across the country. All of them have legitimate requests for the money," Whittington said. "That’s really the big question – is it enough money to solve all the problems based on the formulas that are out there in terms of people’s eligibility?”

Whittington said CAPA is planning on reopening at some point in the fall, but that there's a full calendar set for September. He said there's a lot of pent-up anticipation and demand so he expects a lot of interest. But for some smaller groups, autumn is a long way away.

The Ohio Arts Council has awarded almost 300 grants worth $20 million with money from the federal CARES Act.

Employees of arts organizations have been struggling as well. Many weren't able to qualify for traditional unemployment, so they had to wait for the state to build the system to administer federally-funded pandemic unemployment assistance. As in many states, Ohio's PUA program was hit with massive numbers of fraudulent claims, which held up the release of money for legitimate ones.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.