Status Update: COVID Relief, Visa Fees, Voter Engagement, and Music Education
September 25, 2020
Continue Speaking Up for COVID-19 Arts Relief!
While Congress is nearing agreement on a spending package to keep the federal government running through early December, policy makers are still at odds over the content and scale of the next COVID-19 relief package. Negotiations are still underway, with new proposals being crafted in the coming week before Congress returns home for the election, so it is essential that orchestras continue speaking up!
Led by the League, orchestras have reached all Senate offices and 355 House congressional district offices to call for urgently-needed federal support for the arts sector and its workforce. Advocacy is taking place in all kinds of ways — in person, at virtual town halls, and in small strategic meetings. No matter the context, please refer to the League’s talking points, which are aligned with the broader arts and nonprofits sector, and contact our Washington, D.C. office to share information about your engagement with elected officials. Following is the link to the League’s campaign, along with recent statements advanced with national coalition partners:
- League of American Orchestras COVID-19 Advocacy Campaign
- Nonprofit Leaders Call for COVID Relief (PDF)
- Universal Charitable Deduction Expansion Gaining Bipartisan Support
Visa Petition Fee Increases Next Week
U.S. petitioners that program international guest artists should prepare for steep fee increases in filing visa petitions with USCIS, effective next Friday, October 2, 2020. New versions of the Form I-129 were to have been released well in advance of this date, but as of September 23, the public is still awaiting approved versions of the new and I-129 forms. Although informational preview copies have been posted, they are subject to change and will not be accepted by USCIS. As soon as the new forms have been approved and posted, petitioners seeking an O visa must file the new I-129O while those seeking a P visa (including P-1B and P-3) will need to use the I-129MISC. Any petition for a group of beneficiaries will be capped at a maximum of 25 per petition. Premium Processing Service, which remains at a cost of $1,440 on top of the base filing fee, will now expand from 15 calendar days to 15 federal working days.
While petitioners should follow all posted guidance and stay tuned for updated templates on the League’s website, Artists from Abroad, U.S. residents can urge Congress to provide relief for the nonprofit arts and lower barriers to international cultural activity through our updated campaign.
Arts in Education Week, All Year Long
While last week officially marked National Arts in Education Week, dedicated advocates know that school-based music education requires advocacy throughout the year. COVID-19 is disrupting how, where, and what students are learning in unprecedented ways, but the value of arts education remains high: Arts Education Is Essential (PDF). Orchestras can use their platforms and networks to support school-based arts education and help ensure all children have access to an equitable delivery of arts learning.
Not sure where or how to get started? Check out the sample actions your orchestra can take in our Music Education Advocacy Tools, and the League’s September 23rd webinar, The New Ecosystem for Community-Centered Commitments, which includes essential strategies for collaborations with public education and community partners.
Nonprofits CAN Encourage Voter Engagement
As 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, orchestras can engage in non-partisan voter engagement activity that encourages all voters to register and participate in the election process. Nonprofits are allowed to expend funds and take public positions on referenda, ballot initiatives, propositions, and tax levies. What they cannot do is cross the line into party or candidate endorsement: supporting the election or defeat of any candidate for office is strictly prohibited.
Feel welcome to share the following resources in your networks!:
- Playing Your Part: An Orchestra’s Guide to Public Policy Advocacy – This free guide from the League of American Orchestras walks through how to engage in the policy process and build successful relationships with policymakers.
- Elections Call to Action Toolkit – This new collection of resources is provided by Independent Sector, the national organization for the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, of which the League is an active member.
- Vote.org – Works to ensure that “the electorate matches the population,” providing registration links and deadlines, polling location details, and other essential voting information for each state.
- Nonprofitvote.org – Helps nonprofits engage the people they serve in voting and elections, and includes a very helpful guide to “What Nonprofit Staff Can Say about the Election.” (PDF)