Helping Live Venues in Oregon

Jeff knows that small businesses are the lifeblood of the Oregon economy, providing sustenance and stability to our communities. He also knows that small businesses—especially live venues, whose businesses revolve around large crowds—were hit the hardest during the pandemic, devastated by the economic impacts of coronavirus.

That’s why Jeff’s team fought for the survival of Oregon small businesses since the very start of the coronavirus pandemic—from creating a website to centralize information, and to connecting individual business owners with resources. When venue owners reached out to Jeff’s team, highlighting their unique needs as businesses, Team Merkley got to work. Using the input he received, Jeff successfully helped to establish the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program in the American Rescue Plan, allocating $1.5 billion to help struggling live entertainment venues.

And when those same venue owners let Jeff know that six months after the program was passed they had yet to see a dime of relief, Jeff mobilized his colleagues to pressure the Small Business Administration to get the grant money out the door—and fast. Now, live venues all across Oregon are starting to receive their aid, and they’re telling Jeff that it is making the difference between survival and shuttering their doors forever.

Prestige Theatres, a cinema with locations in Polk and Clackamas counties, wrote to Team Merkley that “this money will provide a bridge to our three theatres as we continue to recover after being shuttered for 15 months, and will support all small and thriving communities that we serve. We could not have survived without the SVOG program, and we are so happy for the opportunity to continue our mission of providing local, affordable family entertainment to small communities.”

After receiving their grant, City Lights Cinema on the coast wrote to Jeff’s team, “It has been a rocky road, but the funds are monumentally helpful in righting the ship and keeping the arts alive in Florence.”

After receiving a grant for Volcanic Theatre Pub in Bend, the owner wrote to the team: “I did cry…and still am. Thank you all for the support and the fight you put up for all of us. I can sit here today for the first time in a year and cry peacefully and breathe deeply knowing that we’re going to be okay. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH! My family, friends, and community are so grateful to be Oregonians.”

Oregon Cabaret Theatre, a theatre at the heart of the Ashland community, wrote, “Wanted to write to let you know that we received our notification of award today—thank you for your work on this on our behalf.”

The success of the SVOG program in every corner of Oregon is a testament to the importance of informing policy with people. Jeff and his team know that supporting small businesses doesn’t end with the pandemic— because when small businesses thrive, communities thrive.