July 23, 2020

Details of the Senate leadership’s priorities for the next COVID-19 relief package are expected to be released throughout the next several days, setting the stage for negotiations with House leadership throughout next week. The League of American Orchestras has been coordinating with nonprofit partners, arts colleagues, and many of you — our orchestra advocates and leaders — to ensure our concerns and priorities are conveyed to all members of Congress. Here are a few important updates about House and Senate proposals:

PPP and Forgivable Loan Eligibility: Several proposals are under consideration that would provide a new or second opportunity to access Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans. However, eligibility restrictions related to employee size may be further limited from the current 500 cap to 300 or an even smaller number, and it is not yet clear whether employee counts will improve from the current Small Business Administration (SBA) formula to take into consideration full-time equivalents, or whether the time period for the employee count would be a current snapshot, or look back over a longer period. Eligibility requirements may also include a percentage threshold for revenue declines, and it is not yet known whether such a percentage would be applied to earned revenue or gross revenue. 

We are asking Congress to ensure that all sizes of nonprofit arts organizations have access to the next phase of forgivable loans to support their workforce and service to communities.

Tax Credits: A number of new and expanded tax credits are under discussion that would apply to employee retention/rehiring, personal protective equipment costs, COVID-19 adaptations for workplaces and public spaces, and more.

We are asking Congress to ensure that tax credits take the form of refundable payroll tax credits to ensure full nonprofit eligibility, and that they are compatible with access to PPP funding and other forms of federal relief.

Charitable Giving Incentives: Bipartisan support continues to grow for expanding the non-itemizer charitable giving incentive that was created in the CARES Act, and there is increasing recognition that nonprofits need both direct federal assistance and increased support through private contributions.

We are asking Congress to incentivize new and increased charitable giving by including an expanded Universal Charitable Deduction in the next COVID-19 relief package.

Pandemic Unemployment Benefits: Set to expire at the end of this month, negotiations are underway in Congress and with the White House regarding the $600/week in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation currently available, and some proposals may significantly diminish the weekly amount or temporarily extend the current rate.  

We are asking Congress to immediately expand the duration of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and improve guidelines for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to better support musicians and other gig economy workers with mixed W-2 and 1099 income sources. We are also asking Congress to increase the federal unemployment insurance reimbursement for self-funded nonprofits to 100% of costs.

Federal Funding: A number of policy proposals would increase public education funding, improve equitable broadband access, establish WORK Now dedicated funding of $50 billion to support the nonprofit workforce, add new COVID relief funding via the National Endowment for the Arts, and — just introduced yesterday — the “Save our Stages Proposal” would establish a $10 billion SBA grant program for performing arts venues, agents, and promoters. While Congress may be taking a more restrictive approach to the cost of this latest COVID-19 relief package, new funding opportunities can provide important relief amid the long duration of closures.

We are asking Congress to include federal funding that will support the arts sector and its service to communities.

Thank you for your ongoing advocacy on these topics and the full slate of policy requests being advanced in collaboration with the broader arts and nonprofit sectors. Policy discussions also include pension reform, liability protections, public and workplace safety requirements, and more.

It is essential that orchestras continue to weigh in to make the case. Please see the Leagues’ COVID-19 policy campaign, with a sample message that your orchestra can modify to focus on the topics of top concern to your orchestra and community. As you can see in this map, orchestra advocates have spoken up in all 50 states (and in more than 330 Congressional districts!), and as negotiations continue and certain priorities gain traction, it is vital that your elected officials continue to hear real-world examples and consequences directly from you!

Please stay tuned as the League shares further information as it becomes available. 

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