Advocacy Update: Voter Engagement, Latest Policy Updates, and Resources

By Laurie Baskin posted 09-23-2020 16:53


Nonprofit Resources for Voter Engagement

As the election cycle accelerates, learn more about how your theatre can take action to support voter engagement! As 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, theatres are strictly prohibited from supporting the election or defeat of any candidate for office, but they can engage in non-partisan voter engagement activity that encourages all voters to register and participate in the election process. Nonprofits are also allowed to expend funds and take public positions on referenda, ballot initiatives, propositions, and tax levies, as long as they do not cross the line into party or candidate endorsement. Please see the Arts Advocacy Basics Toolkit posted on the Performing Arts Alliance website, and in particular, the section on Legalities and Regulations which includes an explanation of lobbying vs electioneering. Issue advocacy and voter engagement are allowed by nonprofit theatres, while electioneering is not allowed. Please also see the following resources for more information about nonprofit participation in voter engagement:             

Federal COVID-19 Relief Negotiations Still Ongoing

Congress is continuing to consider the scope and scale of the next federal COVID-19 relief package, and key discussions are still underway regarding expanding access to Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans, extending unemployment benefits, creating new and expanded tax credits, incentivizing more charitable giving, and delivering funding to support our nation's schools and communities.

The details when it comes to eligibility matter greatly and will directly determine how much support is available. Theatres and theatre artists are facing critical decisions that will affect jobs, livelihoods, and services to communities for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. Advocates must make sure their elected officials know exactly what is happening in your communities and what kind of federal relief is needed. Never assume policymakers are aware of the nuances and how they might affect your organization, workforce, and community. Please be sure to Contact Congress and refer to these policy priorities to support the arts.  TCG's advocacy campaign includes key talking points and a customizable message to Congress that will help you lend your voice alongside partners in the broader arts and nonprofit sectors!

Data Drives Decisions: Explore New Arts Education Data Toolkit

For far too long, inadequate data about the state of arts education in schools has allowed structural inequities to persist, which has prevented many students from experiencing, learning about, and becoming practitioners of the arts in their schools. Earlier this month, the National Endowment for the Arts and Education Commission of the States released a new suite of resources that has been two years in the making--the Arts Education Data Toolkit. This toolkit, which offers detailed guidance on how to manage an arts education data initiative from start to finish, can help users take advantage of new state data systems, which can in turn have an enormous effect on planning an arts education data initiative. The toolkit will help users find, analyze, and report on such data, which most states already collect, and it is part of the State Data Infrastructure Project for Arts Education.

Visa Policy: Engaging Artists from Abroad Amidst COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only forced the cancelation and postponement of countless performances, it has also caused tremendous uncertainty regarding the participation of international artists in future events. Here's where things stand today:

  • USCIS visa petition processing: While a potential furloughing of USCIS employees has been canceled, the USCIS deputy director for policy has warned that "averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs." In addition to this prediction of backlogs, petitioners should take note that steep filing fee increases go into effect beginning October 2, 2020, so it would be best to file as soon as possible and to consider coordinating with others to file multiple-venue petitions.
  • Consular processing: U.S. embassies and consulates are beginning to resume routine visas services on a post-by-post basis. Conditions vary widely, and there is no timetable for when services will be reinstated at each location, so it's important to check the website of the individual U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain the information pertaining to that specific location's operating status, range of services, and estimated wait time. In some cases it is possible to request an emergency appointment, but petitioners should be prepared to enlist Congressional assistance in urgent cases, and to explore whether artists might be able to interview elsewhere.
  • Travel restrictions still in place: Several COVID-19 related travel restrictions are still in effect. Travel to the U.S. by most non-U.S. citizens is not permitted if someone has been in any of the following countries within the previous fourteen days prior to attempted entry into the U.S.: Brazil, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), Iran, and China. Please review the Presidential Proclamation for detailed information. Furthermore, COVID-19 related travel restrictions across the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico have been extended, barring travel for "non-essential purposes." In some exceptional cases, there may be a possibility to request a waiver, so interested parties may wish to review this State Department release from July 22 to learn more about the national interest waiver opportunity. 

The path to bringing international guest artists to the U.S. is certainly becoming increasingly difficult and expensive, but it is still possible. Please refer to the Artists from Abroad website for guidance and the latest developments.