US venue owners listed ‘dead’ by government and locked out of support

Bowery Ballroom
Bowery Ballroom © Tony/via Wikipedia

Many venue owners have been incorrectly recorded as dead by the US government.

The first round of funds from the $16 billion Shutter Venue Operators Grant programme have been allocated. However, some applicants have been wrongly listed as dead by the US government, and have subsequently been locked out of financial support.

In a report by The New York Times,  Bob Hansan, owner of Washington venue Bobby’s Keys, received an email stating: “Your name appears on the Do Not Pay list with the Match Source DMF.” DMF refers to Death Master File, a data source that contains records of over 94 million deaths in the US. After calling Social Security’s headquarters, the office has agreed to send Hansan a form by mail to confirm he’s alive.

Michael Swier of the Bowery Ballroom was also considered to be dead. He told The New York Times, “What do I do? What kind of proof do they need? Can I say over the phone, ‘It’s me’?”

Around 13,000 people applied for the grant. Details of the number of approvals has not been released.

Last year, Crack Magazine interviewed several New York-based artists and club owners on how Covid has impacted the city’s scene. Diana Mora, owner of Friends and Lovers, said, “Covid will affect us for years after this. How long will it take for us to make up for the money that’s lost, and at what point will we have protections?”

“It’s so frustrating to be in this city and see that the only way for nightlife to survive is to crowdsource,” said Dash Speaks, Creative Director and Talent Booker at Friends and Lovers. “The fact that we have to ask people for money instead of being like hey, we’re integral to your economy and culture in New York City, New York City needs to help us here. So the fact that the city, the state and the national government is completely silent on that; that we have to depend on connects at corporations and individuals to give us money during a depression is confounding.”

Read Keep NYC’s lights on: Club owners and artists on how Covid has impacted the nightlife scene.

(via The New York Times)