June 24, 2020

Policy Activity Ramping Up in the Weeks Ahead

There is no shortage of policy updates as elected officials and federal agencies continue to consider and implement existing and new forms of COVID-19 relief. Congress is considering the elements of the next large package of coronavirus pandemic relief that may take shape in the second half of July, while also working on the annual FY21 federal funding process. The League of American Orchestras is speaking up and helping orchestras keep up with the latest developments related to federal assistance, as advocates collaborate with partners in the arts and nonprofit sector to advance COVID-19 policy recommendations and the full slate of arts policy concerns.

Ask Your Senator to Cosponsor Universal Charitable Deduction Bill

Some good news, as the League and orchestras join the broader nonprofit sector in seeking increased incentives for the charitable giving that supports communities nationwide: Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have introduced the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act (S. 4032) (PDF) to expand the current above-the-line deduction for charitable giving made available by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March. The provision would lift the current $300-per-tax-filing cap and making available–for tax years 2019 and 2020–an above-the-line deduction for charitable giving on federal income taxes valued at up to one-third of the standard deduction (around $4,000 for an individual filer and $8,000 for married joint filers). This giving incentive could spark new and increased donations from taxpayers who no longer itemize their tax returns, and is particularly important as orchestras and other nonprofit organizations increasingly rely on charitable giving, as earned revenue has declined in the wake of COVID-19 event cancellations. Contact your Senators to request their cosponsorship, and find more information in the League’s advocacy action center.

League Calls for Improvements to Nonprofit Main Street Lending Program

This week, the League submitted comments (PDF) to the Federal Reserve, in coordination with the broader nonprofit sector, to suggest several revisions to the Main Street Lending Nonprofit Organization Expanded Loan Facility and the Nonprofit Organization New Loan Facility, which was proposed on Monday, June 15. In order for orchestras and other nonprofit organizations to utilize these much-needed resources, the program should be improved to remove the 50-employee floor, eliminate the requirement that no more than 30% of 2019 revenues come from donations, and offer more favorable loan terms and eligibility requirements. Additionally, nonprofit advocates are calling on Congress to take action to allow the Main Street loans to be forgivable. The League will keep you posted as the Fed takes next steps in finalizing the terms of the Nonprofit Main Street Lending program.

The Latest Paycheck Protection Program Updates and League Webinar

The League is presenting a webinar on Monday, June 29 at 1:00pm Eastern, providing the very latest information on the loan forgiveness process for the Paycheck Protection Program, which has been a key form of relief for orchestras and musicians amidst the COVID-19 crisis. This fourth webinar offering will build on prior League learning events, and will provide an overview of the newly-released loan forgiveness application form and instructions, the EZ loan forgiveness application and instructions, and additional loan forgiveness guidance issued just this week (PDF) by the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Our featured speaker is Kyle Miller, of the law firm Pryor Cashman. We will answer orchestra stakeholder questions submitted in advance via our question portal, as well as your live questions during the event. 

Last week, the League joined other national nonprofit organizations in submitting to the Small Business Administration key questions (PDF) related to PPP loans and forgiveness. These advocacy efforts have been informed by the many questions shared by orchestras during League webinars and one-to-one consultations – thank you for your continued engagement.

Please also visit our Federal Assistance web page for important background information, prior webinars, and the latest links to federal guidelines.

Trump Administration Extends and Expands Certain Immigration Restrictions through 2020

This week the President announced an extension through December of his executive order from late April that had, at that time, suspended new immigration for 60 days. Effective immediately, individuals outside the United States who do not currently have an immigrant visa or official travel document other than a visa will be barred entry into the U.S. through December 31, 2020 “and may be continued as necessary” along with the possibility of “any modifications as may be necessary.”

Additionally, restrictions are newly applied to the H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa categories, but not to the O and P categories at this time, which are the classifications used for temporary guest artists. However, many arts administration positions are performed under the H-1B and would therefore be impacted. While there are few J-1 exchange programs remaining in the arts, this might still affect universities that can use these programs in conjunction with cultural exchanges, residencies, and the like. The latest executive order does allow for consular discretion to grant exceptions in the cases of a spouse or child of a U.S. citizen, an alien who would be providing temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain, and an alien “whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees,” which would include those who are critical to diplomacy. The League’s Artists from Abroad news section will stay up to date as more details or further modifications become available.

In April, the League of American Orchestras co-led a U.S. Performing Arts Sector Request for COVID-Related Flexibility from USCIS and Department of State (PDF) that seeks flexibility for visa issuance in light of the unique and devastating impact of the coronavirus on the arts. The League will continue to make the case to policymakers that support for international artistry is essential to U.S. arts employers, artists, and audiences, and we urge orchestra advocates to do the same.

Policy Updates for Nonprofits Self-Insuring for Unemployment Benefits

Last week, the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act was introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to help relieve burdens on orchestras and other nonprofits that self-insure for unemployment benefits. The bill would address an administrative problem created through Department of Labor guidelines, which require nonprofits to pay 100% of their liability, before being reimbursed by the states for the 50% of coverage that was provided in the CARES Act. In both a House and a Senate letter to Congressional leadership, bipartisan support has been expressed for increasing the coverage to 100% for nonprofits in the next COVID-19 relief package. Learn more about this topic in this section of the League’s COVID-19 federal assistance resources.

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