Advocacy Update: NEA Grant Opportunity, Visa Process and SVOG News and Updates!

By Laurie Baskin posted 06-23-2021 20:10

  

NEA Announces Guidelines for American Rescue Plan Grants

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced guidelines for American Rescue Plan Grants, which are intended to help support jobs in the arts sector, keep the doors open to arts organizations, and assist the field in responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Key highlights for the prospective applicants to the Grants to Organizations category are as follows: 

  • Grants are for specific operating costs only, with no cost share/matching fund requirement. Applicants may request a fixed grant amount for: $50,000, $100,000, or $150,000. The NEA encourages applicants to select a grant amount that is reflective of their overall organization size and internal capacity. The grant period can be up to two years.
  • A grantee may receive more than one federal grant during overlapping periods of performance, but grants must cover different costs and/or activities. Applicants may apply to other Arts Endowment funding opportunities for which they are eligible, including Grants for Arts Projects.
  • The NEA is especially encouraging applications from organizations that serve populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by ethnicity, economics, geography, or disability; organizations with small and medium-sized budgets; organizations from rural to urban communities; and organizations that may be applying for federal support through the Arts Endowment for the first time.
  • Due to anticipated volume, applications will be submitted in two separate groups: one for organizations with legal names beginning with A-L and another for organizations with legal names beginning with M-Z. All Grants to Organizations applicants have the same initial Part 1 deadline to submit information via Grants.gov by Thursday, August 12, 2021 at 11:59pm Eastern and then slightly staggered deadlines for Part 2 when materials are submitted to the Applicant Portal, but all award notifications will be given at the same time, anticipated to be December 2021. Awards will not be determined on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Before submitting to Grants.gov, organizations must register or renew/verify their registration with both Grants.gov and the System for Award Management (SAM). These registrations can take several weeks, so this should be done as soon as possible.

The NEA will host a webinar on Wednesday, June 30 from 4-5pm Eastern to provide an overview of the American Rescue Plan Grants to Organizations. A presentation will be followed by a Q&A session. For complete information about NEA Rescue Plan Grants, please visit the NEA website.

 

New USCIS policies aim to improve visa process

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced policy changes that will support improved visa processing, specifying opportunities for artist visa petitioners. Action by USCIS:

  • Restores the ability for a nonprofit organization whose request is "in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States" to request discretionary expedited service, even when premium processing is available. In 2019, the USCIS revoked this specific eligibility criterion from its "traditional expedite" process, which is available for those that have filed a visa petition and are in need of rapid visa processing due to emergency circumstances beyond their control. To be clear, these cases are considered on a case-by-case basis, and this process is not a replacement for filing a timely visa application. The new traditional expedite criteria are effective immediately, and are a strong indication that USCIS is tuning in to the needs of artist-related visa petitioners. 
     
  • Ensures that petitioners submitting a visa application are given an opportunity to correct innocent mistakes and unintentional omissions before an application is denied. New guidance issued to USCIS petition reviewers emphasizes that visa officers should only issue requests for additional evidence and denials when absolutely necessary.

Serious challenges with the artist visa process have been present long before the additional limitations of recent COVID-19 travel restrictions. TCG has partnered with the wider arts and cultural sector to seek the policy improvements just announced, and continues to pursue additional USCIS policy improvements that are urgently needed to make the artist visa process more predictable, reliable, and affordable--all to support ongoing international cultural activity. TCG has also partnered with other national arts stakeholders to seek State Department solutions to COVID-19-related travel restrictions

To find out more information about the visa process, please visit Artists from Abroad, where you will find updated guidance on this and the full array of artist visa developments.

SVOG Updates

The SBA has confirmed that applicants in the 14-day Priority One grant category (those that have experienced a 90% or greater gross revenue loss) began receiving award announcements as of May 26. The agency determined that the 14-day Priority Two grant award announcements began on June 10 (for applicants with a 70% or greater gross revenue loss), and the Priority Three grants will start to be announced on Friday, June 25.

The SBA is planning to make 10,000 decisions by July 4th, and all applications should have a decision by mid-July. The agency is doing away with multiple disbursements and all awards will be made in one lump sum.

THE NUMBERS:

As of Wednesday, 4442 applications have been "decisioned".

  • Of those, 1713 have been notified of their awards, and 660 are queued for award notification, expected to go out by Monday.

  • 607 that are ineligible are queued for decline.

  • 554 are queued for "technical correction". This is a category of likely eligible applicants that need a correction to their paperwork. SBA staff will work with these applicants to address the specific issues that are holding up your application.

  • Approximately 900 applications that have been processed still need to be parsed into the decline bucket or "technical correction" bucket.

  • On June 21, the SBA released its latest program report. In addition, the SBA has posted all SVOG grants here.


APPEALS:

  • Award Amount: The SBA is currently building a process for appeals of award amounts. Please stay tuned for more information.

 

SUPPLEMENTAL FUNDING:

  • Supplemental grants will begin being awarded in late July. Once you have received your initial award, there will be no additional application materials required for supplemental funding. Please stay tuned for more information.

 

SAM.GOV REMINDER:

  • The SBA reports that many applicants still have not completed their SAM.gov registration. Please log into SAM.gov now, and make sure you have clicked submit on everything. You cannot receive funds until you complete this step.

 

SBA SUPPORT:

  • Have a question to which you cannot find an answer? Contact the SBA at SVOGrant@sba.gov.

 

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