Advocacy Update: Agency Nominations, Charitable Giving, SVOG, Visa and Appropriations Updates!

By Laurie Baskin posted 10-25-2021 14:18

  

Still Time to Act on Arts and Recovery
Congress will be working throughout the coming weeks to negotiate and finalize the focus of massive infrastructure and budget reconciliation packages. As these legislative vehicles hold the potential to provide additional resources for COVID-19 economic recovery and substantial federal policies and funding support, theatres are joining the wider arts and nonprofit sectors in urging Congress to support our nation's cultural agencies, creative workforce, nonprofit policies, and the ongoing need for relief via essential sources like the employee retention tax credit (ERTC). See TCG’s Recovery Issue Center for more information and a link to contact Congress with a customizable message.

Reminder! New Charitable Giving Incentives Encourage Donors to Give More
Donors are incentivized to give more to nonprofit organizations through important tax incentives available through December 31, 2021! The universal charitable deduction, available to the growing number of taxpayers who do not itemize their returns, was created under the 2020 CARES Act, and was extended through 2021 and expanded so that single filers may deduct up to $300, and joint filers will be eligible for a $600 deduction for cash contributions. Also for calendar year 2021, taxpayers who itemize their returns will see the limit on the total percentage of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) eligible for the charitable deduction lifted to 100%, and the limit on corporate contributions has been raised to 25%. An IRS Tax Tip issued on September 28 spells out how these giving incentives work and can be a very helpful resource for donors that may be unaware of these important incentives to give more. TCG’s charitable giving advocacy campaign calls on Congress to enact policies to permanently strengthen charitable giving incentives.

SBA Issues New Post-Application Shuttered Venue Operators Grants Guidance!
Last week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued new Post-Application guidance for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program. This guidance spells out new details regarding the budget adjustment, auditing, and reporting requirements for grantees and will be supplemented with technical assistance and SBA webinars in the weeks (and months) to come. Even as the SBA continues to process offers of initial and supplemental awards, all grantees are encouraged to take a close look at this new guidance for important information about how SVOG funds may be used, and to plan for complying with federal grant requirements. This Monitoring, Auditing, and Closeout Process is expected to begin in early December.

All applicants who receive an initial grant and a supplemental will need to put a new budget together explaining how the combined funds will be used. Remember, the budget should include allowable expenses as outlined in FAQs and that were incurred in the correct time period. The SBA will issue a final budget action item, likely in December, offering grantees a two-week window to accept the budget in place or reallocate expenses.

Reconsideration for All Grantees: The SBA will be offering all grantees an opportunity to provide revised revenue numbers and seek a revised corresponding grant amount. Once the SBA has completed all initial and supplemental award issuance, it will launch a “2.0” grant reconsideration process. This will be activated as a new action item posted in every grantee’s portal, likely in November, inviting them to correct any mistakes made in reported revenue or business start date.

Once the SBA reviews and approves the final grantees budget, the three-part closeout process may begin. Grantees may complete the close-out process after grant funds have been completely expended, and no later than 120 days after the end of the Budget Period (“Through” date in a grantee’s notice of award, Form 1222 Box 5).

Audit requirements for grantees are described in the Post-Application guidance. Theatres will note that different audit requirements apply to nonprofit and for-profit grantees, which is a requirement of broader, underlying federal grant regulations. 

COVID-19 Visa and Travel Status Update
COVID-19 Travel Bans are expected to be lifted November 8, 2021 for fully vaccinated travelers to the U.S. Non-U.S. travelers will need to show proof of full vaccination and a recent negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight. Land crossings by non-essential travelers will need to be fully vaccinated but not required to provide a negative test. All FDA-approved and authorized vaccines, as well as those that have an Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization, are considered acceptable (listed on this page). The CDC will issue guidelines on acceptable proof of vaccination in the coming weeks.

In addition to the uncertainty of COVID-19 travel restrictions, consular delays worldwide continue to threaten the ability of artists to secure timely appointments for collecting their visas, and in many cases performances have had to be canceled or rescheduled for a future date. Up-to-date guidance about navigating the visa process can be found at www.ArtistsfromAbroad.org. There is an updated dedicated news page on COVID-related visa news and international travel.

Beyond COVID-19 travel restrictions, there are also persistent challenges when attempting to obtain an artist visa due to processing delays and strains on the capacity of U.S. consulates worldwide. In September, TCG co-hosted a free webinar on the current state of affairs for obtaining U.S. guest artist visas and traveling internationally. The recording of the webinar, U.S. Artist Visas and International Travel in the Age of COVID, is now available to view free of charge.

Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson Nominated to Lead National Endowment for the Arts
President Biden has nominated Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson to Chair the National Endowment for the Arts. Dr. Jackson, who has served on the advisory council to the NEA since 2013, is a longtime arts and humanities administrator and professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. The nomination of Dr. Jackson, as well as Shelly Lowe who is nominated to Chair the National Endowment for the Humanities, will next await confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Arts Education Legislation Introduced
Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) has introduced the Arts Education for All Act, which seeks to support and encourage arts education and programming for early learners, K-12 students, and young people in the juvenile justice system, and strengthen the mandate for the U.S. Department of Education to collect data on learning in the arts. Rep. Bonamici serves on the House Education and Labor Committee, founded the Congressional STEAM Caucus (Science, Technology, Engineer, Arts, and Math), and has been a consistent champion for the arts since entering office. TCG is an endorser of the Arts Education for All Act.

October is National Arts and Humanities Month
Throughout October, the nation has been celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM). This year, our country's highest level of office has joined in recognizing "the essential role the arts and humanities play in our Nation's economy, democracy, health, and vitality." The National Endowment for the Arts has promoted the role of the arts in the following areas: Creative economy/American Rescue Plan (Oct 4), Equity (Oct 14), Education (Oct 18), Health and wellness (Oct 21), and Military Communities (Oct 27).

FY22 Appropriations Updates
In mid-October Senator Leahy released Senate appropriations bills, recommending $182.5 million each for the NEA and NEH. The House Appropriations Committee recommended $201 million for each agency, supporting the President’s request.

The Senate FY22 Labor HHS Committee recommends $32 million for the Arts in Education program (a $1.5 million increase over FY21), and $1.32 billion for Title IVA Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (an increase of $100 million over the FY21 levels).

The House Appropriations Committee has approved the FY22 Labor HHS funding bill, which includes increases for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment State Grants ($1.3B, an increase of $85 million above the FY21 enacted) and for the Arts in Education program ($33M, an increase of $2.5M over FY21).

Student Support and Academic Enrichment State Grants provide students with access to a well-rounded education, including rigorous coursework, and improve school conditions and the use of technology. The Arts in Education program provides competitive grants to support professional development and the development of instructional materials and programming that integrate the arts into the curricula.

On September 30, the U.S. Department of Education announced FY21 Assistance for Arts Education awards totaling $17 million to 27 grants to national nonprofit organizations, local school districts, colleges and universities, and other arts organizations “to enrich the academic experience of and promote arts education for students, including disadvantaged students and students who are children with disabilities.” Congratulations to Cleveland Play House and Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles for their AAE awards!

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