Eastern Idaho State Fair 2018

People head through the entry gate at the 2018 Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot. The fair was one of several Idaho businesses that applied to receive grant money from the federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program.

Performing arts venues took a big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of them canceling the majority of their 2020 programming to comply with health and safety guidelines. Recently announced federal grant money is helping many organizations and venues in Idaho, such as the Idaho Falls Arts Council, recover from more than a year of setbacks.

The Arts Council is receiving $339,729 from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program. The Arts Council is one of 26 businesses in Idaho to receive money from the program, according to a July 12 Small Business Administration report that listed the grantees across the country.

The COVID-19 economic relief package issued about $15 billion for the Small Business Administration to give to entertainment businesses and live venues, which is where the grant program comes from. Congress also passed the Save Our Stages Act, which allowed venues and small entertainment businesses to apply for funding to keep them afloat during the pandemic.

Georgina Goodlander, visual arts director at the Arts Council, said the grant was crucial to help make up for lost revenue from the closure of the Arts Council’s Colonial Theater.

“The fact that we were unable to have a show in the theater for one full season and then part of the season prior to that had a really serious impact on our budget,” Goodlander said.

The Arts Council had a 60% reduction in its budget last year compared to the year before the pandemic, she said. The grant funds came in June 22, which has provided some much-needed relief.

Goodlander said the Arts Council is thankful for the community support that was shown during the pandemic. Many individual and corporate sponsors followed through with donations even with no shows available.

“We feel very fortunate to be in such a supportive community that we were able to sustain,” Goodlander said. “The love that we felt from them that they wanted us to survive was just incredible, and we feel very grateful that we’re here and planning a full season coming up.”

In Idaho, the largest amount of grant dollars a business received came from Meridian Cinemas in Meridian. The business received over $4 million, according to the report. Up until July 12, more than $14 million dollars has been given to businesses in the state.

Another one of the 26 businesses was the Eastern Idaho Fair in Blackfoot. The Eastern Idaho Fair also received federal dollars. The report said the fair will be granted more than $1.6 million.

Fair General Manager Brandon Bird said the fair has not received grant money yet and the process has taken much longer than he has expected.

Bird added that the fair took a significant financial hit in 2020 because the majority of fair events were canceled. He said he expects that the grant money will go to operating this year’s fair.

“We like to say we did our part, but in doing our part with not holding events, we took a financial hit that was pretty big,” he said.

The Small Business Administration reported that there have been more than 14,000 applications for the grants. Just over 6,600 businesses have received grant money nationally, according to the report, totaling more than $5 billion federal dollars dished out to small businesses in the U.S.

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