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Peoria Civic Center Seeks Change To Federal Grant Application Process

Jeff Smudde

An issue with the application process could prevent the Peoria Civic Center from getting some federal economic relief funds.

The federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration is meant to help eligible arenas and concert venues recover 45% of the revenue they lost during the COVID-19 shutdown.

But according to Peoria Civic Center general manager Rik Edgar, applicants are required to report information from tax returns – and the state of Illinois does not require entities like the Peoria Civic Center Authority to file tax returns.

“While we qualify in writing on the federal grant, the application came out and it made it impossible for us to apply for the funds,” said Edgar. “And the response we got from the SBA was, ‘well, fill it out anyway, and then if there’s any money left over after everybody else comes in, then we'll see if we can send you some relief funds.’”

Edgar said applicants who aren’t able to fill out a question on the form automatically get kicked out of the system. He said potentially being sent to the back of the line would put PCC in a long-term bind.

“If we're so far behind that we cannot bring people back and we cannot get back to work at a regular pace, this is not going to be just a two-year issue,” said Edgar. “This is going to be a decade long issue. So immediate attention needs to be given to this problem.”

Edgar noted that unlike venues in other states, the Civic Center and other arenas in Illinois are not part of their cities' budgets, so they don't get any of the federal relief money sent to those cities.

“Giving (cities) money to fix their budget issues does not address the issues with our venues,” said Edgar. “And it's not just Peoria; it's Peoria, Moline, Joliet, Aurora, Springfield, Bloomington. There's a whole group of us that are the secondary markets outside of the Chicago area, who are basically being told, you're left out in the cold.”

Edgar said he believed the intent of the Shuttered Venue grants program was to help venues “get back on our feet,” adding that the PCC needs the relief funds to help pay down its debt service and be on firm ground when it reopens later this year.

“We're just asking for, I call them ‘the two E's.’ We want them to correct the form so we can remain eligible, and we just want equitable treatment, not special treatment,” said Edgar. “We just want to have the same opportunity as the private sector has had to getting these funds.”

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