Jay Owenhouse owns and runs one of the largest touring magic shows in the United States. His Bozeman-based company had to shut down for 16 months due to the pandemic, but recently announced federal grants will help him – and others – keep the show going.
Senator Jon Tester announced Friday that 23 different companies across Montana were receiving just over $ 8 million from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program. Six of these companies are located in Bozeman – including Owenhouse’s – and are expected to raise approximately $ 740,000.
Logjam Presents LLC, based in Missoula, is said to be receiving more than $ 3 million, the largest portion of any company to date to have received the funds in the state.
The money comes from the Small Business Administration, which received around $ 15 billion for small entertainment businesses and live events as of December 2020 COVID-19 economic aid package.
That was packed in the aid package Save our stage actwho got the ball rolling for venues and small entertainment businesses across the country to apply for funding to keep the doors open.
“When this pandemic broke out, Montana live venues were the first to close their doors to keep people healthy in our communities and now, more than a year later, they are among the last to reopen” said Tester in the press release. “I’m proud to have worked with these small businesses to make sure they have the resources they need to get the Montans back to work and support our local economy.”
Owenhouse has owned and operated Owenhouse Promotions since the early 1990s. He scoured the country for a location that could provide a safe stage for his performance, but became frustrated when it became increasingly clear that no venues would be opened during the pandemic.
His business was that first Received government funding in early June. Owenhouse applied when the scholarship was first announced, but waited months for payment. He was considered a first priority applicant identified as a company that has lost 90% of its revenue due to the pandemic. He received nearly $ 300,000.
“Without the scholarship we would be out of business,” said Owenhouse.
However, the scholarship program launched in early April was overshadowed by technical difficulties. Problems with the website application portal resulted in the website temporarily closing and reopening weeks later.
More than half of all US Senators – including Sens. Tester and Steve Danies – sent one letter to the head of the Small Business Administration, Isabella Guzman, in mid-June, urging them and the administration to speed up the process in order to get funds paid out.
Brian Buch, deputy district director of the regional office of the Small Business Administration in Helena, compared the problems to a busy motorway that was so full that applications clogged the funding portal.
Buch said that the Small Business Administration will hopefully let around 70% of all applications go through this month. A report dated July 6th said the Small Business Administration has received more than 14,000 applications from the United States and has determined whether 74% of applicants will approve funds.
So far, $ 2 billion in funding has been paid out.
Broad House Productions LLC, home of Broad Comedy, has received more than $ 34,000 in grants. Broad Comedy director Soren Kisiel said in an email that the company applied for the grant in April. The Small Business Association approved the application last week.
Kisiel said the grant money would be used for lost revenue as they were unable to tour and pay for their actors.
Owenhouse said the grants his company received would be used to pay his employees, rent payments for his warehouse, and publicity to help restart his business – strict guidelines dictate how the money can be used, he said.
“We’re just grateful that we didn’t go out of business as a Montana-based company,” said Owenhouse. “This grant was essential to keep us alive.”
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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 406-582-2648.