Fine print renders Iolani Palace ineligible for $ 16 billion grant program for closed sites


The Iolani Palace’s financial struggle over the pandemic seemed to find a lifeline in the $ 16 billion closure site operator subsidy program run by the Small Business Administration, but the fine print renders the national historic monument ineligible to receive funding.

The palace closed in March 2020, along with museums and event venues across the country, leading to industry layoffs and millions in lost revenue. It reopened in June, but it only had enough money to operate for a few months.

Paula Akana, executive director of the Friends of the Palace of Iolani, started her post in the summer of 2019.

“There was no endowment here at the palace when I arrived. So when the pandemic hit, we were really devastated financially and mentally by everything that was going on,” she said.

The palace recently had its first paycheck protection program loan canceled by the SBA and it requested the second round, Akana said.

Donations from the community also helped, but Akana said the funds usually last a few months and then they have to call again.

Akana said the palace is very excited about the new $ 16 billion grant program because the money is unlimited and does not have to be repaid.

The palace is said to have received $ 1.5 million, likely lasting until the summer of 2022, Akana said.

“Then they released the information about it and you must have a video or a conference room, which we have here at Iolani Palace. But you have to have fixed seats and we can’t have fixed seats in the palace, “she said.” We probably could have put it in the barracks, but that’s after the fact. We can’t do this. “

Museums must have “at least one auditorium, theater or auditorium or conference hall with fixed seats for the public and regular programming”, according to the SBA.

She called the congressional delegation from the SBA and Hawaii. The delegation asked for an exception because the palace is a national historic monument, but the bill was unchanged – signed in December.

“It was like, ‘No, we can’t make exceptions.’ It was really heartbreaking, ”she said.

Museums were even excited to be included because the schedule was set primarily for live concert halls, she said.

“They added museums, but there was nothing to say, ‘Hey, that’s a weird thing to write about museums.’

Some people believe the bill was trying to exclude roadside attractions, she said.

The state Senate has proposed adding more than $ 720,000 to next year’s budget. During the pandemic, the Hawaii Tourism Authority provided the palace with $ 290,000 to help it recover from a bee infestation in its tower and repair the Coronation Pavilion.

“The state is really hurting, but so are we and I think they are trying,” Akana said.

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