May 13, 2021

In This Issue

American Rescue Plan: State and Local Funding in Motion

Take note that two key areas of American Rescue Plan (ARP) aid to states and localities are now being implemented by the federal government. As these resources will be administered by states, counties, and local governmental leaders, orchestras should connect directly with governmental leaders and with their state nonprofit alliances, state arts agencies, and state and local arts alliances to learn more about advocacy efforts underway to encourage use of these funds to support the arts sector. As ARP provisions move forward, advocates are seeking support for new and ongoing relief and recovery resources.

  • State and Local Recovery Funds: On May 10, the Treasury Department issued 151 pages of guidance through an Interim Final Rule (PDF) providing details on the ways American Rescue Plan Act “funds can be used to respond to acute pandemic-response needs, fill revenue shortfalls among state and local governments, and support the communities and populations hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis.” A Fact Sheet (PDF) and FAQ (PDF) outline eligible uses, including support for nonprofit organizations, and broad flexibility for funds to be used to “address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector.” 
  • NEA Launches State and Regional Relief: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced it is distributing more than $52 million in funding for state and jurisdictional arts agencies and regional arts organizations in its first phase of American Rescue Plan (ARP) awards which are intended to support the arts sector in its recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As with every federal allocation of funding to the NEA, 40 percent of the $135 million in ARP funding will be administered by state, jurisdictional, and regional arts organizations for regranting through their respective funding programs. Each state and jurisdictional arts agency and regional arts organization determines its own process and timing for awarding their portion (PDF) of the ARP funds, so prospective applicants should visit the states and regionals page on the Arts Endowment’s website for more information. Direct grants from the NEA to nonprofit arts organizations will be part of the second phase of ARP funding; guidelines and application materials are expected in June 2021 pending review. Find more details in the League’s overview of the NEA Phase 1 ARP funding.
  • Nonprofit Sector Seeks Support for WORK NOW: Among the many ways the Biden Administration and Congress can build new forms of support in the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic is through passage of the WORK Now Act. Last month, the League joined a letter alongside numerous nonprofit organizations urging President Biden to support the WORK NOW Act (PDF), which stands for Work Opportunities and Resources to Keep Nonprofit Organizations Well. This measure, introduced in March as S. 740 and H.R. 1987 by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA-38), specifies eligibility for the arts and would create a new $50 billion program to help nonprofit organizations retain their employees, scale their service delivery, and provide unemployed people with new jobs serving their communities–with most of the funds allocated through states, tribal governments, and localities. You can support this and other policies by participating in the League’s Relief and Recovery campaign. It takes just two minutes and it’s easy to personalize a message asking Congress to support the arts in COVID-19 recovery.

More information on the full array of federal relief options is available in the League’s Federal COVID-19 Relief Resource Center.

Latest Shuttered Venue Operators Grants Updates

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is advising stakeholders that further information about next steps in the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants program will continue to be released in the coming days, with the first Priority 1 grant awards announced as early as next week. The League has been participating in dialogue with the SBA regarding this critical form of support and sharing real-time updates with orchestras through the online discussion channels for Disaster Relief and Finance Directors on League360. Our latest comprehensive overview and Shuttered Venue background contain all the details, and following are some highlights:

  • The SBA has posted a new Post-Application FAQ and guide for completing the required Form 4506-T. In a week to ten days, a more substantial FAQ will be released addressing topics related to grant recipients.
  • The SBA expects to issue new, high-level data within the next two days regarding the status of applications received. As of today, more than 11,600 applications have been received. The SBA has specified that funds remain available for new applications. While there is not a deadline for closing the application process, all are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Those that have opened an application but not yet submitted it are strongly encouraged to complete applications soon.
  • This week and next, applicants may begin receiving notices if action is needed on an application. Specifically, applicants will be notified if corrections are needed on the Form 4506-T, or if the applicant is on the SBA’s “do not pay” list. In both of these circumstances, the applicant will not lose their place in line as long as a timely response is received.
  • Information sessions will be held for grantees. Applicants are in the meantime encouraged to consult grants.gov for some basics as the next steps in procedures for SVOG grantees will be similar.

International Mobility: Visas and Travel with Instruments

The COVID-19 travel ban originally issued by the Trump Administration and renewed by the Biden Administration continues to remain in place and with South Africa and India now added to the complete list of restricted countries. Throughout the pandemic, consulates abroad have had the ability to issue National Interest Exception (NIE) waivers, but over the last month there have been reports of widely varying interpretations by consulates on the policy of issuing NIEs for artists. The situation around the Executive Order remains fluid and the League is in conversation with the U.S. Department of State to elevate the urgency of the need for clear and consistent guidance to affected countries so that NIEs can be more equitably accessed. Our Artists from Abroad website will continue to provide updated guidance as we learn more, and orchestras experiencing difficulty with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or State Department parts of the visa process are encouraged to contact our DC office for assistance.

As musicians globally contemplate the opportunity to return to cross-border performances, international deliberations continue regarding requirements for musical instruments that were made with material that is now regulated under protected species rules. As part of its ongoing work in this area in partnership with global music stakeholders and conservation leaders, the League of American Orchestras participated in a meeting of representatives across the 183 parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) May 5-7, delivering policy recommendations related to rosewood (PDF) and the CITES Musical Instrument Certificate (PDF). The League has also partnered with the American Federation of Musicians, National Association of Music Merchants, the Recording Academy, and other U.S.-based organizations on comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (PDF) as preparation continues for the 2022 CITES Conference of the Parties.

Charitable Giving Provisions Introduced in Congress

While orchestras and other nonprofit organizations have long relied on charitable giving as a lifeline of support for delivering on mission, the generosity of donors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vital provisions like the universal charitable deduction are. The CARES Act included a modest but powerful universal charitable deduction that is available to taxpayers who do not itemize their returns, and this provision was extended by the COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill through the remainder of 2021. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress that would extend and enhance charitable giving through provisions such as the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act and the Legacy IRA Act. Advocates can learn more and urge their elected officials to support charitable giving measures in the League’s charitable giving advocacy campaign.

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