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March 11, 2021

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New and Extended Federal Relief Approved in American Rescue Plan!

New and Extended Federal Relief Approved in American Rescue Plan!

The latest COVID-19 relief package is now on its way to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will extend many current COVID-19 relief provisions and provide critical new ones. Thank you for your ongoing advocacy as the League of American Orchestras and its members partner with the broader arts and nonprofit sectors to seek federal assistance throughout the pandemic.

Federal agencies will need to rapidly develop new guidance to implement all forms of relief, and the League will keep you posted on all the details through our online resources, learning events, and email communications:

Here are key highlights:

Paycheck Protection Program: An additional $7.25 billion will be added to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) resources, and eligibility changes will allow nonprofits with no more than 500 employees at each location to be eligible for forgivable loans. As of March 7, the SBA PPP Data show that $165 billion of the $280 billion of PPP funding made available for 2021 has been distributed to loan applicants. The 2021 PPP program is now open for all eligible applicants for first and second draws and is currently slated to close on March 31, 2021.

New Dual Eligibility for Shuttered Venue Operators Grants and PPP: Rules that had required applicants to choose between seeking a 2021 PPP loan or a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant have changed. 

Under the new terms of the American Rescue Plan, 2021 PPP recipients will be eligible to apply for a Shuttered Venues Operators Grant (SVOG) and deduct the value of their 2021 PPP loan from the applicant’s SVOG maximum grant amount (45% of 2019 earned revenue, capped at $10 million). 

While the SVOG program has not yet opened for applications, the Small Business Administration is releasing eligibility guidance on the SVOG website and through continuously updated SVOG Frequently Asked Questions. As the League has previously shared, the SBA FAQs indicate that eligibility for the 28-day priority period for receiving Shuttered Venue grants will be determined based on declines in gross revenue (90% for the first fourteen days and 70% for the second fourteen days), from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 as compared to 2019. All SVOG applicants must demonstrate a 25% decline in earned revenue, in one calendar quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter in 2019. 

An additional $1.25 billion in funding will be available to support the SVOG program, bringing total funding to $16.25 billion. The SBA will encourage all applicants to submit their applications to the portal at the very start of the program launching, as applications will be processed in the order in which they are received, within the priority period and following its conclusion. The launch date of the program is still uncertain.

Employee Retention Tax Credit: The refundable payroll tax credits that are currently available in the first two quarters of 2021 will be extended through the remainder of the calendar year. 

Pension Relief: The Butch-Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 is included in the American Rescue Plan and will relieve the current strain on both single- and multi-employer plans. This section-by-section summary (PDF) is just three pages and your quickest route to an overview of the proposed relief. The League is grateful to the American Federation of Musicians, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, Regional Orchestra Players Association, and the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) for partnership and leadership in the years that have built toward advancing this urgently-needed policy action.

National Endowment for the Arts COVID-19 Relief: The National Endowment for the Arts will receive an additional $135 million in dedicated funding, with 40% allocated to states and regions and the remainder supporting direct grants to organizations “that support organizations’ programming and general operating expenses to cover up to 100 percent of the costs of the programs which the grants support, to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the coronavirus.” The NEA will be releasing further information about the process and timeframe for implementing new grants.

Relief for Nonprofits Self-Insuring Unemployment Benefits: Many orchestras are among nonprofits that self-insure unemployment benefits rather than pay state unemployment taxes. The federal government covers 50% of nonprofit liability under the CARES Act, and this relief was extended through March 14, 2021 in the December relief package. Under the American Rescue Plan, the 50% coverage would continue through March 31, and starting April 1 federal relief would cover 75% of nonprofit liability, available through September 6, 2021.

Attend the League Webinar for an Overview of Federal Relief

Join the League’s Washington, DC advocacy team next Friday, March 19 at 1pm Eastern/10am Pacific for a quick review of the latest developments and a guided tour through League COVID-19 resources available to help your orchestra navigate various forms of federal relief. You’ll also learn more about how to stay engaged in speaking up with policy leaders in the coming months. This free webinar for League members will provide a top-line overview and will be followed by additional learning events that will take a deeper dive into relief provisions. Member orchestras, please register today!

Advocacy Work Continues!

Please continue to speak up to let your members of Congress know the ways in which COVID relief is supporting your orchestra and your community. While much attention has been given to COVID relief legislation, there are other bills that will need support in the coming weeks and months as well. 

Just yesterday, Senators Lankford (R-OK), Coons (D-DE), Lee (R-UT), Shaheen (D-NH), Scott (R-SC), Klobuchar (D-MN), Collins (R-ME), and Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act (S. 618) to expand and extend the current non-itemizer deduction for charitable giving. Representatives Pappas (D-NH-1) and Walorski (R-IN-2) introduced a companion measure in the House, H.R. 1704. While the December COVID relief package had extended the $300 charitable deduction for 2021, this measure would allow taxpayers who do not itemize to take a deduction for charitable gifts valued at up to one-third of the standard deduction (around $4,000 for an individual filer and $8,000 for married joint filers) for tax years 2021 and 2022. In the months ahead, Congress will be turning its attention to a recovery package, which could include this and other essential provisions.

As we have seen over the last year, advocacy is a year-round effort. The League’s 2021 Calendar of Opportunities can help your orchestra advocates identify opportune moments to connect with federally elected officials and connect to national events, like Music in Our Schools Month throughout March. Please keep us informed about your interactions so we can build upon them in our DC-based advocacy!

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