Live music venues in Nashville will get $2 million in grants from the CARES Act.

By Peter White

NASHVILLE, TN — The state of Tennessee received $2.648 billion from the CARES Act. Stimulus relief funding is not just a big bag of cash. It has to be used in certain ways for certain things. COVID-19 relief funds must be spent by the end of the year. They cannot be banked or used to pay for things already in city and state budgets. 

Cities with at least half a million residents received some CARES Act money directly and they decided how to spend it. Nashville received $121 million and Memphis received $113 million.

In a statement last week, the mayor’s office said Nashville has spent or earmarked $93.8 million. Here is a list of Coronavirus Relief Fund expenditures:

• Metro’s emergency COVID-19 response (estimated costs through 12/30/20): $48.8 million

• Remote learning support for MNPS students and teachers: $24 million

• Rent, mortgage, and utility assistance for Davidson County residents: $10 million

• Small business grants and technical support: $5.7 million

• Essential Metro services conducted through non-profit organizations: $2.8 million

• Funding to reduce food insecurity: $2.5 million

• Total funds spent or allocated to date: $93.8 million

“We are spending $3.5M (3.7%) for small business, and $0.2M (0.2%) for a Latino agency to also help with small business,” said Katie Lentile, spokesperson for the mayor’s office. That money is included in the $93.8 million.

Lentile said Pathways Lending, a community development financial institution (CDFI), is disbursing $2.2 million of CARES Act funding: $200,000 for technical support to small businesses impacted by COVID-19 and $2 million in grants for live music venues. 

The live music grants are similar to the $82,500 provided to record producers, film and video producers, and theater owners in Memphis. The TN Department of Finance & Administration also steered about $2 million to limited service restaurants in Memphis. 

A lot of stimulus funding related to COVID-19 comes from the CARES Act. The state of Tennessee and local governments have played a crucial role getting aid to people who missed out. For example, a lot of small businesses applied but didn’t get loans in both rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). (See Minority Businesses Are Getting More Paycheck Protection Loans, Tennessee Tribune, June 4, 2020) 

Governor Lee’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group operates on the state level very much like how Metro’s nine-member stimulus oversight committee decides how to spend CARES Act money in Nashville. Both groups try to get assistance to groups, industries, and individuals who didn’t get any earlier this year.

Lee established the Financial Accountability Group April 16 to help plan a statewide response to COVID-19. In August, the Department of Human Services organized the Tennessee Community CARES Program. The idea was to provide money for non-profit activities and reimburse NGOs for past response and recovery expenses.

The program identified need in four regions and large NGOs like the United Way were selected in each region as grant administrators. They in turn reached out to their networks of smaller NGOs to select grantees. By September 1, $150 million in federal funds had been awarded in seven program categories. 

Although the state and local stimulus groups are similar and both direct recovery funds, the Nashville committee suggests and then the Metro Council approves the distribution of relief funds in Davidson County. 

The Mayor’s office provided a list of federal relief fund distributions by the Financial Oversight Committee and approved by the Metro Council:

1. $10 million to the United Way of Greater Nashville, to be disbursed to certain partner agencies for rent, mortgage, and utility relief. Call 2-1-1 to find an agency providing these funds.

2. $2.5 million to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to provide more food to those impacted by COVID-19.

3. $600,000 provided to the Nashville Business Incubation Center for technical support of small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

4. $600,000 provided to the Nashville Entrepreneur Center for technical support of small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

5. $200,000 provided to Conexión Américas for technical support and grants for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

6. $100,000 provided to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for technical support of small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

7. $200,000 provided to Pathway Lending for technical support of small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

8. $2 million in grant funds for live music venues. The fund will be administered by Pathway Lending. The funds can cover a maximum of 2 months of operating expenses, excluding payroll, to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a maximum grant of $100,000 each. Eligible grant recipients shall be limited to live music venues that meet the following criteria:

a. Must be independent, Nashville-owned and primarily used for live music entertainment;

b. Require concert tickets, admissions, and/or cover charges for entry at least 50% of the time the facility is open to the public;

c. Venues with other ancillary services, such as alcohol, food, or merchandise, must be subsidiary or dependent upon live music performances; and

d. Annual receipts for the 12-month period ended February 29, 2020 cannot exceed $5 million.

9. $2 million in grant funds for small businesses. All small businesses that receive grants must meet the following criteria:

a. In existence for 12 months from the date of application;

b. Minimum annual gross receipts of $35,000 as evidenced by tax returns filed with the state;

c. Maximum annual gross receipts of $1 million as evidence by tax returns filed with the State;

d. Eligible grant recipients that have been convicted of a citation, warrant, or administrative penalty for violation of a Metro emergency COVID-19 public health order may be deemed by the Committee to be ineligible to receive funds;

e. Small businesses with annual gross receipts over $250,000 and a maximum of $1 million may receive a grant not to exceed $10,000. Microbusinesses with annual gross receipts over $35,000 and a maximum of $250,000 may receive a grant not to exceed $5,000; and

f. Any eligible grant recipient that receives a grant under the concurrently submitted live music venues resolution proposed by the Committee is ineligible to receive a grant under this program.

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