RICHMOND, Virginia – As lawmakers hold a special session to find out how to spend billions of dollars in COVID relief funds, Virginia wedding industry vendors are hoping they will be among those getting help.
Kim Moody, event manager for the Estate at River Run, and Nina Whittleton, co-owner of Classic Party Rentals of Virginia, told CBS 6 that most of their industry lost 75% of their income in 2020.
Apart from a small amount of PPP funding, they said they had received no help.
Moody and Whittleton have forced themselves to form VOWS, Virginia’s Organization of Wedding Standards, which has applied for 501 (c) (6) status in an attempt to have more power and funding to hire lobbyists involved in the wedding industry represented at the General Assembly.
“I think that was a big reason we were disfellowshipped because we didn’t have a vote,” said Whittleton. “We still have a small voice, but we didn’t have a seat at the decision-making table either. And that’s what VOWS is about.”
While restaurants and other venues have received funding like the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG), the wedding industry is not eligible for that money.
“We’re so excited to have friends in the hospitality industry and so happy about the venues that have received or are receiving the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant,” said Moody. “But with all of these financing packages that have been created, the wedding industry has completely fallen through all the loopholes.”
Moody said that since she was forced to close her venue, she only received the second round of PPP funding.
“It was enough to pay our light bill for two months,” explained Moody. “And that’s it. So he has to help us.”
CBS 6 reached out to Governor Ralph Northam’s team to find out why the wedding industry wasn’t funded.
A spokesman said the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant is a federal grant program, so they can’t adjust eligibility at the state level.
The governor’s team also noted that wedding venues and caterers are eligible for Rebuild VA, Virginia’s small business scholarship program, as long as they are open before the state of emergency was declared last March.
However, this program does not currently accept applications.
Moody said she reached out to the governor’s team last week in hopes of finding out if the wedding industry is eligible for any of the $ 4.3 billion under the federal CARES Act that the state is using on spending decides.
“One of the quotes they told Nina and me just a week ago was that they weren’t going to pick different industries to fund and package,” Moody said. “Well, that’s exactly what they did. They picked the cherry on the top of which industries to shut down. They allowed the venues to reopen to 30% capacity, but wedding venues weren’t allowed because they thought we were more dangerous . The people were at the general assembly. ” fought for the reopening of these stores. Because we’re all a bunch of moms, nobody fought for us. “
Whittleton had to make major adjustments to keep her business open.
“We sold company vehicles, nobody had company vehicles,” she stated. “I took a 60% cut in salary and got two part-time jobs. So if I got special finance I’d be a little better, a lot more comfortable.”
Moody and Whittleton are encouraging other wedding providers who are struggling to join VOWS.
You can find more information about the group here.