New Action on Charitable Giving Incentives, COVID-19 Relief, and Visa Policies

By Laurie Baskin posted 06-24-2020 00:00


Ask Your Senator to Co-Sponsor Universal Charitable Deduction Bill

Some good news, as TCG and theatres join the broader nonprofit sector in seeking increased incentives for the charitable giving that supports communities nationwide. Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have introduced the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act (S. 4032) to expand the current above-the-line deduction for charitable giving made available by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March. The provision would lift the current $300-per-tax-filing cap and making available-for tax years 2019 and 2020-an above-the-line deduction for charitable giving on federal income taxes valued at up to one-third of the standard deduction (around $4,000 for an individual filer and $8,000 for married joint filers). This giving incentive could spark new and increased donations from taxpayers that no longer itemize their tax returns and is particularly important as theatres and other nonprofit organizations increasingly rely on charitable giving, as earned revenue has declined in the wake of COVID-19 event cancellations. Please contact your Senators to request their co-sponsorship now!

The Latest Paycheck Protection Program Updates

There is newly-released information on the loan forgiveness process for the Paycheck Protection Program, which has been a key form of relief for theatres and theatre artists amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Here is the loan forgiveness application form and instructions, the EZ loan forgiveness application and instructions, and additional loan forgiveness guidance issued just this week by the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Trump Administration Extends and Expands Certain Immigration Restrictions through 2020

This week the President announced an extension through December of his executive order from late April that had, at that time, suspended new immigration for 60 days. Effective immediately, individuals outside the United States who do not currently have an immigrant visa or official travel document other than a visa will be barred entry into the U.S. through December 31, 2020 "and may be continued as necessary" along with the possibility of "any modifications as may be necessary."

Additionally, restrictions are newly applied to the H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa categories, but not to the O and P categories at this time, which are the classifications used for temporary guest artists. However, many arts administration positions are performed under the H-1B and would therefore be impacted. While there are few J-1 exchange programs remaining in the arts, this might still affect universities that can use these programs in conjunction with cultural exchanges, residencies and the like. The latest executive order does allow for consular discretion to grant exceptions in the cases of a spouse or child of a U.S. citizen, an alien who would be providing temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain, and an alien "whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees," which would include those who are critical to diplomacy. The Artists from Abroad news section will stay up to date as more details or further modifications become available.

In April, TCG joined a U.S. Performing Arts Sector Request for COVID-Related Flexibility from USCIS and Department of State that seeks flexibility for visa issuance in light of the unique and devastating impact of the coronavirus on the arts. TCG will continue to make the case to policymakers that support for international artistry is essential to U.S. arts employers, artists, and audiences, and we urge theatre advocates to do the same.

Policy Updates for Nonprofits Self-Insuring for Unemployment Benefits 

Last week, the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Actwas introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to help relieve burdens on theatres and other nonprofits that self-insure for unemployment benefits. The bill would address an administrative problem created through Department of Labor guidelines, which require nonprofits to pay 100% of their liability, before being reimbursed by the states for the 50% of coverage that was provided in the CARES Act. In both a House and a Senate letter to Congressional leadership, bipartisan support has been expressed for increasing the coverage to 100% for nonprofits in the next COVID-19 relief package.

Policy Activity Ramping Up in the Weeks Ahead

Congress is considering the elements of the next large package of coronavirus pandemic relief while also working on the annual FY20 federal funding process. Advocates are urged to continue to advance COVID-19 policy recommendations and the full slate of arts policy concerns.