Advocacy Update: Latest COVID-19 Relief Updates and Opportunities, International Mobility, and Charitable Giving Bills

By Laurie Baskin posted 05-27-2021 17:14


SVOG Updates

The Small Business Administration has indicated that it will begin rolling out notifications to Priority 1 applicants of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants program this week.

Yesterday, Small Business Administrator Isabel Guzman testified before both the House and Senate Small Business Committees and reported that the SBA "has started awarding funds." Also yesterday, the SBA published an FAQ for Awardees as well as an updated Post-Application FAQ.

Just last night, we sent a letter to The White House urging them to assist in delivering the $16.25 billion of urgently needed funding to our field, to improve communications and transparency to applicants, and to clarify the supplemental grant process.

American Rescue Plan: State and Local Funding in Motion

Please note that two key areas of American Rescue Plan (ARP) aid to states and localities are now being implemented by the federal government. As these resources will be administered by states, counties, and local governmental leaders, theatres should connect directly with governmental leaders and with their state nonprofit alliances, state arts agencies, and state and local arts alliances to learn more about advocacy efforts underway to encourage use of these funds to support the arts sector. As ARP provisions move forward, advocates are seeking support for new and ongoing relief and recovery resources.

  • State and Local Recovery Funds: On May 10, the Treasury Department issued 151 pages of guidance through an Interim Final Rule providing details on the ways American Rescue Plan Act "funds can be used to respond to acute pandemic-response needs, fill revenue shortfalls among state and local governments, and support the communities and populations hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis." A Fact Sheet and FAQ outline eligible uses, including support for nonprofit organizations, and broad flexibility for funds to be used to "address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector." 
  • NEA Launches State and Regional Relief: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced it is distributing more than $52 million in funding for state and jurisdictional arts agencies and regional arts organizations in its first phase of American Rescue Plan (ARP) awards which are intended to support the arts sector in its recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As with every federal allocation of funding to the NEA, 40 percent of the $135 million in ARP funding will be administered by state, jurisdictional, and regional arts organizations for regranting through their respective funding programs. Each state and jurisdictional arts agency and regional arts organization determines its own process and timing for awarding their portion of the ARP funds, so prospective applicants should visit the states and regionals page on the Arts Endowment's website for more information. Direct grants from the NEA to nonprofit arts organizations will be part of the second phase of ARP funding; guidelines and application materials are expected in June 2021 pending review. Find more details in TCG’s overview of the NEA Phase 1 ARP funding.
  • Nonprofit Sector Seeks Support for WORK NOW: Among the many ways the Biden Administration and Congress can build new forms of support in the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic is through passage of the WORK Now Act. Last month, TCG joined a letter alongside numerous nonprofit organizations urging President Biden to support the WORK NOW Act, which stands for Work Opportunities and Resources to Keep Nonprofit Organizations Well. This measure, introduced in March as S. 740 and H.R. 1987 by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA-38), specifies eligibility for the arts and would create a new $50 billion program to help nonprofit organizations retain their employees, scale their service delivery, and provide unemployed people with new jobs serving their communities--with most of the funds allocated through states, tribal governments, and localities. You can support this and other policies by participating in TCG’s Relief and Recovery campaign. It takes just two minutes and it's easy to personalize a message asking Congress to support the arts in COVID-19 recovery.
International Mobility: Visas

The COVID-19 travel ban originally issued by the Trump Administration and renewed by the Biden Administration continues to remain in place and with South Africa and India now added to the complete list of restricted countries. Throughout the pandemic, consulates abroad have had the ability to issue National Interest Exception (NIE) waivers, but over the last month there have been reports of widely varying interpretations by consulates on the policy of issuing NIEs for artists. The situation around the Executive Order remains fluid and arts advocates have been in conversation with the U.S. Department of State to elevate the urgency of the need for clear and consistent guidance to affected countries so that NIEs can be more equitably accessed. The Artists from Abroad website will continue to provide updated guidance as we learn more, and theatres experiencing difficulty with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or State Department parts of the visa process are encouraged to report issues to Laurie Baskin at

Charitable Giving Provisions Introduced in Congress

While theatres and other nonprofit organizations have long relied on charitable giving as a lifeline of support for delivering on mission, the generosity of donors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vital provisions like the universal charitable deduction are. The CARES Act included a modest but powerful universal charitable deduction that is available to taxpayers who do not itemize their returns, and this provision was extended by the COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill through the remainder of 2021. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress that would extend and enhance charitable giving through provisions such as the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act and the Legacy IRA Act. Advocates can learn more and urge their elected officials to support charitable giving measures in TCG’s charitable giving advocacy campaign