The Tulsa Performing Arts Center still doesn’t know the status of its application for COVID-19 relief funds set aside for theaters and other entertainment venues.
More than $16 billion was made available through the Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which opened in April and has been plagued by delays. So far, the SBA has made a decision on almost 90% of the more than 15,000 applications received to date, but the agency has notified less than half those applicants.
Tulsa PAC CEO Mark Frie said he knows there’s plenty of money left. The SBA has awarded just $5 billion so far.
"So, there's plenty of money left. For me, my frustration is not knowing. Once I know, then I can make the plans either way. I just would really like to know," Frie said.
SBA has awarded more than $32 million to Oklahoma applicants, including Oklahoma City’s performing arts center. Frie said he's concerned a difference in how Tulsa's operating trust is set up could be a factor in Oklahoma City getting funding already but not Tulsa. Tulsa's PAC trust members are appointed by the mayor. If that leads the SBA to consider the trust a government entity, it would not eligible for the shuttered venue grants.
"You know, we lost over 90% of our revenue during COVID. So, it will help bring our staffing levels back up to what I am comfortable with so that we can provide the level of customer service to the patrons and to the people that use the PAC, and it will also help us in longer-term vision goals in terms of development, capital improvements," Frie said.
Frie said he's somewhat encouraged that the SBA has not declined Tulsa's application.
SBA has awarded Tulsa venues more than $13 million already, including almost $5 million for the zoo and $4.6 million for Celebrity Attractions.
Frie said the Tulsa PAC has asked Sen. James Lankford’s office for help. Lankford's office has not responded to a request for comment.