With COVID circumstances and hospitalizations once more on the rise as new variant EG.5 (nickname: Eris) spreads throughout the U.S., it is onerous to not really feel like we have been trapped in a irritating time loop, with headlines that appear plucked straight out of 2021. And now, there’s one other pandemic-related controversy that appears like a throwback. A brand new report alleges that tons of of hundreds of thousands in taxpayer funds that have been supposed to assist unbiased arts and occasions venues by way of the disaster as a substitute went to millionaire rock stars, together with Benihana inheritor/digital musician Steve Aoki, legally troubled singer Chris Brown, and Magic: The Gathering superfan/rapper Publish Malone.
It is a state of affairs paying homage to the controversy round Paycheck Safety Program (PPP) loans, through which taxpayer cash earmarked for small companies went as a substitute to massive corporations owned by then-President Donald Trump, actuality TV stars, and international quick meals chains. However within the case of these PPP loans, recipients needed to leap by way of sure hoops to keep away from reimbursement (albeit hoops that have been fairly straightforward to beat).
However these funds, a part of the Congress-approved Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, do not ever have to be repaid, which signifies that many well-known of us with seemingly wholesome financial institution accounts reportedly raked in hundreds of thousands they’re going to get to maintain ceaselessly. And, to be clear, all this was utterly above board, as whereas the expectation was that the cash could be used to help staff and substitute misplaced income, it may simply as legally use the cash to pay themselves.
(As of publication time, not one of the artists named within the report have shared detailed info on how their grant cash was disbursed; citing the confidentiality of enterprise data, the Small Enterprise Administration declined to share info from any of the musicians’ grant purposes.)
In response to a report from Insider, an organization fronted by Malone—who, per Texas Month-to-month, spent $2 million this summer season on a single, collectible taking part in card—efficiently utilized for a $10 million grant from the SBA-administered program. An organization fronted by Brown additionally acquired $10 million. Aoki’s firm, DJ Child Millionaire Touring Inc., acquired $9.9 million.
Different artists/bands and their grant quantities, in response to Insider:
- Becky G: $2.2 million
- Frequent: $2.8 million
- Father John Misty: $1.7 million
- Korn: $5.3 million
- Leann Rimes: $2 million
- Melissa Etheridge: $3.9 million
- Nickleback: $2 million
- Slipknot: $9.7 million
- Smashing Pumpkins: $8.6 million
- Vampire Weekend: $8.3 million
- Usher: $3.1 million
The SBA struggled to handle the grant, which was initially known as the ‘Save Our Levels” marketing campaign, from the very starting, notes Selection. The overwhelmed authorities company took six months to start out distributing cash and despatched candidates to a non-functional web site, prompting Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton to say then that the “rollout and execution of the grant program has been a catastrophe.”
These delays prompted 55 senators to ship a letter to the pinnacle of the SBA in June 2021, urging it to chop by way of the purple tape and to ship the funds extra shortly.
“The SVOG program is exclusive,” the senators wrote, “with needed restrictions inbuilt to make sure taxpayer funding goes solely to eligible candidates in want.” And it was a lifeline for a lot of, says Meredith Lynsey Schade, a nonprofit theater exec. “We will, now, look again three years later and say there wasn’t sufficient oversight” of this system,” she mentioned.
“However the actuality is that when there is a fireplace that is burning, you go searching and attempt to put that fireside out.”