May 15, 2020

Thank You: Ongoing Advocacy is Essential

Since passage of the CARES Act, orchestra stakeholders have continued to speak up in partnership with the broader arts and nonprofit sectors, seeking ongoing federal relief amid the COVID-19 crisis. Whether it’s dialing into virtual town hall meetings, speaking with members of Congress on the fine points of eligibility for relief, or writing to leaders of key committees to explain what is needed next to sustain musical activity, your advocacy is making a difference.
Please keep weighing in! Elected officials expect to hear from their stakeholders with frequency, the policy issues are dynamic, and the needs of your community are rapidly changing. The League of American Orchestras is working and leading in strategic partnerships with national arts and nonprofit sector leaders to ensure that your voice is added to those influencing the outcome of the next COVID-19 relief package, and proposals the League and national partners crafted last month (PDF) are now being echoed by city mayors, the Congressional Arts and Humanities Caucus Leadership (PDF), and in bipartisan statements in the House and Senate (see below). The League’s ongoing advocacy campaign includes more than a dozen topics on which policy conversations are underway, and orchestra advocates have already reached more than 400 members of Congress to date. Choose those issues that resonate most for your orchestra, speak up in the weeks ahead, and share upcoming League action alerts with your orchestra’s full array of stakeholders.

House Action Marks Start of Weeks of Negotiations Ahead

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives is debating a $3 trillion package of COVID-19 relief offered by Democratic leadership as a starting point to negotiations that will unfold over the next several weeks. While the White House has already indicated that it would veto the overall package and Senate leadership continues to consider how swiftly it will offer an alternative, the contents of the bill (PDF) signal some emerging support for provisions advanced by orchestras and our partners in the broader arts and nonprofits sectors.

As described in this helpful overview from the National Council of Nonprofits, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) would extend the duration of pandemic unemployment benefits, broaden nonprofit eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program and expand the covered period through the end of the year, mandate a nonprofit Main Street lending program through the Federal Reserve, improve relief for employers that self-insure for unemployment benefits, and increase employee retention tax credits. The bill also recommends relief for single- and multi-employer pension plans, an additional $10 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and would boost federal resources for public education in light of states and localities predicting severe funding shortfalls. It’s important to keep in mind that many other proposals have been introduced or are under discussion, and the journey to the next relief package will take many twists and turns before winning the bipartisan support needed for passage. Meanwhile…

Bi-Partisan Support Grows for Nonprofit Sector Relief

More than 170 members of the House and Senate have signed their names to letters to Congressional leadership, supporting several key nonprofit policy priorities, including dedicated and expanded nonprofit access to the Paycheck Protection Program and economic stabilization loans, enhanced incentives for charitable giving, and 100% unemployment insurance reimbursement for self-funded nonprofits. The House letter (PDF), led by Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), was finalized on April 29, and the Senate letter (PDF), led by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Sen. Angus King (I-ME), was completed on May 7. Since then, numerous other policy leaders have indicated support as orchestras and other nonprofits continue to seek a dedicated nonprofit track of COVID-19 relief. The League partners with the National Council of Nonprofits (PDF), Independent Sector (PDF), and the Charitable Giving Coalition (PDF) to advance policy efforts in Washington, D.C., and we encourage orchestras to continue to align advocacy efforts with your local nonprofit partners. Your voice is truly having an impact!

Paycheck Protection Program Update

Today, the League filed comments on behalf of orchestras in response to the interim guidelines for Paycheck Protection Program loans established under the CARES Act. The comments call on the Small Business Administration to support eligibility for loan forgiveness as orchestras and borrowers across the nonprofit sector continue to await full guidance, even as they are mid-stream in using PPP funds to maintain and retain their workforce.

In the meantime, the Treasury has added a 46th answer to its Paycheck Protection Program Q & A (PDF), providing new information regarding a liquidity question that has been the topic of much recent discussion. The Treasury is creating a new safe harbor provision, and all borrowers receiving loans of less than $2 million will be deemed to have met the good-faith certification requirement regarding the necessity of their loan. For borrowers with funding of $2 million or more, if Treasury concludes that the borrower did not meet the requirements regarding the necessity of the loan, the loan must be repaid and further penalties will not be pursued. We will keep you informed as soon as further guidance is released.

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