Shutdown, New Year Ahead, and New Congress

January 10, 2019

Federal Government Shutdown: Impact on the Arts?

  • National Endowment for the Arts: Due to the expiration of the stopgap funding and subsequent partial shutdown of the government, operations at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) are suspended until FY2019 funding for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies passes. The public announcement of the NEA's first of two major waves of grantmaking for FY19 will likely be delayed, and the agency's website and social media accounts are not posting content or responding to messages during this federal appropriations lapse.

    The nomination of Mary Anne Carter to serve as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts will likely be affected by the shutdown as well. More than 130 pending presidential nominations from the previous Congress, including Carter's, must be resubmitted.

 

  • Visa Processing and Tax Procedures for International Artists: U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) remains open since most of the agency's services are funded by fees. USCIS will continue to accept and process visa applications, though petitioners are always reminded to keep an eye on processing times (currently ranging from 2 weeks-2.5 months at the Vermont Service Center and 3 weeks-3 months at the California Service Center) and file as far in advance as possible. For picking up an approved visa at consulates abroad, the State Department posted on December 22, 2018 that "scheduled passport and visa services in the United States and at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas will continue during the lapse in appropriations as the situation permits." However, the longer a lapse continues, delays at consulates are possible due to more limited general consular operations. Taking into account that consulates have already been directed to vet visa candidates more thoroughly, petitioners and artists should allow more time than usual for the consular processing step. Limited operations at the IRS may also delay responses to inquiries related to tax withholding procedures. The League hosts complete information about the visa and tax process on www.artistsfromabroad.org.

 

  • Permits for International Travel with Protected Species Instruments: If an orchestra or musician already has a CITES permit to support a tour, that permit can be put to use, but new ones will not be issued during the shutdown. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is partially affected by the shutdown, with a subset of employees designated as exempt from a shutdown to perform necessary functions while many others are not authorized to work. While CITES permit applications can be sent to the agency, the issuance of permits is suspended until USFWS re-opens, at which point there is likely to be a backlog. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and USFWS port inspection sites are funded through fees, so those services will continue through the shutdown, cargo will be inspected, and permits will be credentialed. Some senior staff at the port may be furloughed, so it may be best to address any questions to inspectors. 

 

New Session of Congress Begins, House Changes Leadership
The 116th Congress began on January 3, 2019, dividing control of Congress with Democrats now leading the U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans retaining leadership in the Senate. With many new members now in office, and the state of Pennsylvania having been completely redistricted, there is plenty of opportunity and reason to get in touch with Congress. The League's Calendar of Opportunities identifies dates when Congress will be in session, along with key events and suggested actions orchestra advocates can take to engage their elected officials all year long.