On the first day nightclubs, movie theaters and other arts organizations hurt by the pandemic could apply for $16 billion in federal aid, the system malfunctioned. No applications got through

Credit…Zack Wittman for The New York Times

As the government prepared on Thursday to start taking applications for a $16 billion relief fund for music clubs, theaters and other live event businesses, thousands of desperate applicants waited eagerly to submit their paperwork right at noon, when the system was scheduled to open.

And then they waited. And waited. Nearly four hours later, the system was still not working at all, sending applicants into spasms of anxiety.

“This is an absolute disaster,” Eric Sosa, the owner of C’mon Everybody, a club in Brooklyn, tweeted at the agency.

Shortly after 4 p.m., the Small Business Administration — which runs the initiative, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program — abandoned its effort to salvage the broken system and shut down it down for the day. No applications were processed.

“Technical issues arose despite multiple successful tests of the application process,” Andrea Roebker, an agency spokeswoman, said in a written statement.

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