Speaking Up on the Next COVID Relief Package: The Weeks Ahead

By Laurie Baskin posted 05-18-2020 06:59


Thank You: Ongoing Advocacy is Essential


Since passage of the CARES Act, theatre leaders have continued to speak up in partnership with the broader arts and nonprofit sectors, seeking ongoing federal relief amidst the COVID-19 crisis. And, 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. TCG is working 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 Cultural Advocacy Group crafted last month are now being echoed by city mayors, the Congressional Arts and Humanities Caucus Leadership, and in bipartisan statements in the House and Senate (see below).

TCG is working with national arts advocacy partners to build an advocacy campaign geared toward the next relief package and which will include more than a dozen topics on which policy conversations are underway. Theatre advocates have already sent more than 7,000 messages to Members of Congress since mid-March. Next week, we will be sending an Action Alert aimed at House-Senate negotiations on the next relief package. It will be necessary to at least match the volume of response from the theatre field from March and April. We ask you to speak up in the weeks ahead, and share upcoming TCG Action Alerts with your theatre'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 signal some emerging support for provisions advanced by theatres 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, as states and localities predict severe funding shortfalls. It is 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.

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, led by Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) was finalized on April 29, and the Senate letter, 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 theatres and other nonprofits continue to seek a dedicated nonprofit track of COVID-19 relief. TCG supports the efforts of the National Council of Nonprofits, Independent Sector, and the Charitable Giving Coalition to advance policy efforts in Washington, D.C., and we encourage theatres to continue to align advocacy efforts with your local nonprofit partners. Your voice is making a difference!

Paycheck Protection Program Update
Yesterday, TCG filed comments on behalf of theatres 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 allow flexibility with regard to loan forgiveness as theatres  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 47th answer to its Paycheck Protection Program Q & A. 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, and Treasury will require repayment of the loan and will not pursue further penalties. We will keep you informed as soon as further guidance is released.

Thank you for your continued advocacy efforts. Please stay tuned for an Action Alert next week, and please participate by engaging your staff, board, artists, parents and other stakeholders in generating thousands of messages to Capitol Hill.