Summer Action Heats Up on COVID Policy Issues
August 12, 2021
In This Issue
- Next Phase Begins for Shuttered Venue Operators Grants
- Threats to Shorten Employee Retention Tax Credit as Access Improves
- Webinar Ahead: U.S. Visas and COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
- How to Play Your Part this Month
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced that the last day for accepting new Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) applications is Friday, August 20, as the agency turns its focus to processing all initial applications received and launching the supplemental grant award process.
- Initial Grants: The SBA is nearing completion of the initial grant review process and is currently providing applicants the opportunity to appeal declines, request reconsideration of approved grant amounts that were less than expected, and complete any open action items needed to finish the review and funds disbursement process.
Action: If your orchestra is experiencing any difficulty with these last steps in the initial application and award process, please contact the League of American Orchestras’ Washington, D.C. office for assistance as soon as possible.
- Supplemental Grants: SVOG grant recipients that demonstrate a 70% or greater earned revenue decline, comparing earned revenue in the first calendar quarter of 2021 to the first calendar quarter of 2019, will be invited to receive a supplemental grant, equal to 50% of the original grant amount, prior to the deduction of Paycheck Protection Program loans received in 2021.
Action: All applicants are now being given the option to update their 2021 earned revenue data in the application portal as the SBA will use that data to calculate eligibility for supplemental awards. Invitations to apply for supplemental grant awards are expected to be issued in the week of August 23, though that timeline is subject to change.
The League remains in constant dialogue with the SBA throughout the full administration of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program and posts updated information on our Shuttered Venue Operators Grants overview and on the Finance and Disaster Relief channels of League360.org. Further information is also available directly in the SBA’s July updates to the SVOG Applicant FAQ and the Post-Application Guidance.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have provided new information to help employers that are accessing the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) in combination with other forms of federal COVID-19 assistance, including forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG). The ERTC has been a critical form of support for re-opening and rehiring employees amid the ongoing pandemic and is currently available through December 31, 2021, but its duration is now in jeopardy.
For employers no longer under government-mandated closure orders, qualifying for the ERTC requires demonstrating a minimum 20% decline in gross receipts, comparing the calendar quarter in which the ERTC is taken with the same calendar quarter in 2019. This week’s IRS announcement (Revenue Procedure 2021-33) provides a safe harbor that permits an employer to exclude the amount of the forgiveness of a PPP loan and the amount of Shuttered Venue Grants from the definition of gross receipts for the purpose of determining eligibility to claim the employee retention credit.
Meanwhile, the broad infrastructure bill that was passed by the Senate earlier this week includes a measure to repeal the 2021 fourth quarter access to the ERTC. The infrastructure package still needs to be taken up by the House. Between that and the negotiations over a budget reconciliation package, there is some opportunity to protect the full duration of the ERTC. The League has been partnering with the broader arts and nonprofit sectors to advocate to Congress to maintain and expand access to the ERTC, and we will continue to make the case to key Congressional offices. The League has posted background information regarding the ERTC within our federal COVID-19 Resource Center, and will keep you posted as further information becomes available.
Action: Please take a quick moment to complete a very short questionnaire regarding your orchestra’s plans to access the ERTC in the fourth calendar quarter of this year.
The League continues to provide the latest information and resources as international travel into the U.S. for artists remains uncertain amid ongoing U.S. COVID-19 travel restrictions and delays at consulates worldwide. While U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is continuing to process visa petitions, the consular process that follows initial approval has proven to be rife with complications due to significant delays scheduling visa interviews and the need for artists from 33 countries subjected to COVID-19 travel restrictions to obtain a National Interest Exception waiver.
Action: Review the latest visa and travel overview posted by the League of American Orchestras to our ArtistsFromAbroad.org website, and save the date for Thursday, September 9 at 3:00pm Eastern/12:00 noon Pacific, when the League will co-host a webinar in partnership with Tamizdat and the Association of Performing Arts Professionals. Registration details for the free 75-minute webinar (which will be recorded and made available to the public) will be coming soon. In the meantime, remember that the League continues to seek policy improvements while offering direct assistance to orchestras navigating this process.
The best time to contact your elected officials is all year long, but August is traditionally the longest period of time when members of Congress go to their home districts and states. Between historic amounts of federal support for individuals, communities, and businesses to weather the effects of COVID-19, and the prospect of major infrastructure spending on the near horizon, there are plenty of reasons to check in with your Representative and Senators to let them know how their work is having an impact at home. Take advantage of their August break and contact them online or try to see them in person–perhaps at an outdoor concert. As always, don’t forget to keep the League’s D.C. team informed! We’re always happy to help you prepare with the latest talking points and to support your efforts.