Negotiations over the next federal relief package are continuing, against a backdrop of the rapidly approaching election and the Supreme Court nomination process. Congressional leadership and the White House have been locked in disagreement over the approach and overall price tag for the next COVID-19 aid package, even as essential forms of relief created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) expire.
Despite the on-again, off-again headlines surrounding relief talks, policy leaders do continue to negotiate the fine print of possible elements of a new package, and ongoing advocacy by theatres is essential. While the House is not expected to be back in session until after the November elections, policymakers could be called back to Washington for a vote on a breakthrough.
On October 1, the House passed its latest relief proposal, which includes Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans, pandemic unemployment benefits, and direct federal relief funding to support the arts. TCG has posted key policy changes and additions in this updated version of the House's earlier HEROES Act, and we continue to partner with the broader nonprofit and arts sectors to advance specific policy provisions to support theatres and their workforces.
Please continue to contact Congressional offices through TCG's online advocacy campaign and direct personal contacts to policy leaders.
SBA Releases Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Updates
On October 8, the Small Business Administration released a new Form 3508S Loan Forgiveness Application and instructions, providing a streamlined process for Paycheck Protection Program borrowers with loans of $50,000 or less, requiring fewer calculations and less documentation to complete the loan forgiveness process. Those pursuing forgiveness for loans in excess of $50,000 will continue to use the standard Form and Form EZ released in mid-June.
The first round of Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans provided a lifeline of resources that saved jobs and supported the capacity of theatres to deliver on their mission in partnership with communities. More than 1 million nonprofit jobs have been lost amid the COVID-19 crisis. Theatres are partnering with the broader sector to seek #relief4charities and asking Congress to include a second round of expanded PPP forgivable loans in the next COVID relief package.
Universal Charitable Deduction and the Latest Giving Trends
Building on years of advocacy by theatres in partnership with the broader nonprofit sector, a new universal charitable deduction was created under the CARES Act in March, allowing the growing number of taxpayers who do not itemize their returns to receive a tax deduction of up to $300 per tax return for cash charitable donations to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations during calendar year 2020.
A statement by the Charitable Giving Coalition, in which TCG is a member, calls on Congress to lift the cap on the universal charitable deduction and extend the incentive beyond 2020, pointing to the latest quarterly data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. The report shows a 7.5 percent increase in overall charitable giving and a 7.2 percent increase in the number of donors for the first half of 2020, as compared to the same time in 2019. The biggest increase in gifts came from those donors giving $250 or less at 19.2 percent.
As we enter the season of year-end giving, you can weigh in with Congress to ask for an expansion of the universal charitable deduction through TCG's online advocacy campaign.
New Visa Fee and Forms on Pause, but Congress Approves PPS Hike
Theatres that engage international guest artists should be aware that the new forms and fees that were to go into effect October 2 have been paused due to a nationwide preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Petitioners should continue to use the current version of the Form I-129 (dated 01/27/20) and $460 filing fee for O and P visas for the time being.
While the I-129 form, filing fee, and process remain unchanged for now due to the injunction, the continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating contained authorization for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to increase the fee for Premium Processing Service (PPS) to expedite petition processing from $1,440 up to $2,500. This fee will goes into effect today, October 19 2020. More details are available on the Artists from Abroad website.