Little Rock Community Theater Denied Federal Grant, Says Reasoning Was ‘Unfair’ | KLRT



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LITTLE ROCK, Ark – A community theater in Little Rock said they were “unfairly turned down” after receiving multiple refusals for a federal grant program.

The US Small Business Association designed the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program last spring to help theaters struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic.

The SBA was to pay $ 16 billion.

Amanda Kennedy is the Studio Theater treasure in downtown Little Rock. She says the program was exactly what the theater needed, seeking $ 135,000 in grant funds.

“We got into a lot of debt [during our closure in 2020] because our bills continued, ”Kennedy said.

Kennedy says the theater was a shoo-in for the show, which is why the decision came as a surprise.

“The denial was a complete shock,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy says she received an email from the SBA informing her that the theater grant application was rejected. She says she was not given a reason.

Months later, Kennedy says she is still looking for answers after two more theaters in central Arkansas received grants under the program.

“There are other nonprofit community theaters, identical to us in all material respects that have been funded,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy says the Studio Theater appealed their denial in early fall. This appeal was also rejected by the SBA.

“It makes the whole process feel like a lottery rather than the letter of the law,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy says she contacted the SBA for an explanation. She says they cited “unpaid performers” as the reason for the rejection.

Kennedy says that under SBA guidelines, nonprofits are exempt.

“We have been unfairly denied,” Kennedy said.

Studio Theater executives said the grant was supposed to be a turning point in the pandemic.

“It was really a vital program for us to take this organization to the next phase,” said Shelby Hibbs, Executive Director of Studio Theater.

Hibbs says the theater cannot survive on ticket sales alone and is looking for another way to fund the theater.

“It will set us back a bit,” Hibbs said.

We have contacted the SBA for comment and have had no response.

Kennedy says a lawsuit is not on the table at this point, but takes the time to assess finances and attorney fees.

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