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Government & Politics

New Grants Available for Live Entertainment Businesses Hit By Pandemic

Employees at Billings’ Babcock Theater swap signage on May 8, a day after the governor announced movie theaters, gyms and museums can reopen May 15.
Nickt Ouellet
Yellowstone Public Radio
Employees at Billings’ Babcock Theater swap signage on May 8, a day after the governor announced movie theaters, gyms and museums can reopen May 15.

Montana is allocating new economic assistance for businesses in the live entertainment industry.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Aug. 12 announced the state will expand grants using federal coronavirus relief dollars to prop up businesses hurting from the economic downturn sparked by the pandemic.

"Without additional support for our live entertainment venues we risk losing those cultural assets, permanently," Bullock said.

Bullock says the new $10 million Live Entertainment Grant Program is meant to support an industry that’s seen revenues flatten as acts cancel tours and venues close to curb the virus’s spread.

Businesses that make at least a third of their annual revenue from live event ticket sales can apply for grants that will provide up to 25 percent of the business’s revenue last year, or a maximum of $1 million per applicant.

Applications are available Aug. 12 on a first come, first served basis.

The Yellowstone County Economic Response and Recovery Team calls the new grant a “win” for the county. The team has been pushing for such funding for the past two months on behalf of area businesses.

“Entertainment venues like ours were the first to close and will be the last to open,” said Pub Station co-owner Sean Lynch. “We are in the business of gathering people, and that is not something we can do safely for the foreseeable future, we are a phase three business. This program will make the difference in our ability to survive.”

Bullock announced another new grant for tourism businesses on the eastern side of Glacier National Park that he says have been especially hard hit by ongoing area closures. That grant becomes available next week and will cover up to a quarter of a business’s 2019 gross revenue or up to $40,000. Tourism reliant businesses in the vicinity of East Glacier, Babb and St. Mary are eligible.

Montana is also doubling the amount of funding for the state’s Business Stabilization Grant Program, which, according to the state commerce department, has paid out more than $66 million to nearly 8,000 small Montana businesses. Businesses are now eligible for a second payment equal to the first. New applicants are eligible for up to six months of working capital or $20,000 dollars.

The governor’s office says it’s allocated 80 percent of the state’s total $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funding.

Bullock faces criticism from Republican opponents who say the money isn’t getting out fast enough. Bullock says it’s wise to keep some funds reserved to adapt to future challenges in the pandemic this year.