Article Published: 19 Jan 2021

Arts Advocacy Updates

January 20 Presidential Inauguration: Priorities for Biden-Harris Administration

President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris are scheduled to be inaugurated tomorrow, January 20. Vice President-Elect Harris will make history as the nation’s first woman, African American, and South Asian vice president, and will also be the tie-breaking vote as the presiding officer of the U.S. Senate. Both political parties have 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber. The U.S. Senate is back in session today and has started confirmation hearings for several cabinet nominees for the new administration.

The Biden-Harris transition team also released a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan to help the country deal with the current pandemic and to move beyond the pandemic. The proposal provides relief to various small businesses and references those minority-owned small businesses that have been hit the hardest, particularly in the arts. The Biden-Harris Administration will also be working on other major issues, including racial justice, climate change, infrastructure, and immigration reform. OPERA America is working to ensure the arts and culture sector, as a major and unique contributor to the economy at all levels, is included as a priority within each of the new administration’s issue priorities.

U.S Small Business Administration Hosts January 14 Webinar on Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program; Program Not Yet Operational

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) held a brief webinar on January 14 to provide a general overview of the $15 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program, commonly referred to as Save Our Stages. The SBA additionally released further information on SVOG on its website. The grant program is not operational yet, and the SBA did not provide a specific date at this point in time. However, the SBA did indicate that it will provide advance notice to eligible entities before the grant program is operational as well as host additional informational sessions, including a pre-application information session, before the grant program is operational. It is important to note that the webinar and the SVOG section of the SBA website leave more questions than answers about how the SBA will administer the grant program effectively and efficiently to support eligible entities that had to shutter the venues they own or operate because of the pandemic. Below are some key takeaways from the January 14 webinar:

  • The SBA recommends that eligible entities start pulling revenue information and information on how they use their revenue to pay for expenses.
  • The grant program is not operational yet, and the SBA did not provide a specific date at this point.
  • The SBA will release a matrix concerning eligibility requirements and award/loan calculations for SVOG, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program.
    • Under current law, eligible entities cannot receive both an SVOG grant and a PPP loan.
    • Applying for a PPP loan or an SVOG grant does not impact EIDL eligibility.
  • SVOG grant calculations will depend on when the eligible entity was in operation.
    • In operation before and by January 1, 2019: Eligible entities will receive a maximum grant equal to 45% of 2019 gross earned revenue. The SBA will need to clarify what it considers gross earned income for nonprofit entities.
    • In operation after January 1, 2019: calculate the average monthly gross earned revenue for each full month in operation during 2019 and then multiply by 6.
    • The maximum grant award amount is $12 million per eligible entity.
  • The SBA will process applications in order of priority.
  • The SBA’s district offices are available to help eligible entities with various pandemic relief programs.
  • Further inquiries can be directed to SVOGrant@sba.org and please include the specific issue topic in the subject line.
  • Further information will be posted to sba.gov/CoronavirusRelief.

The SBA SVOG section of the website provides further information that needs to be clarified by the federal agency, including the timing and eligibility requirements for the grant program’s priority periods, including how and when eligible small businesses (50 employees or less) will receive initial grants. OPERA America is working with the SBA and with its partners across the performing arts sector to address various questions and concerns before the grant program is operational.

Paycheck Protection Program Open to All Participating Financial Institutions

Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration opened up the “second-draw” loan program under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to all participating financial institutions. The SBA released additional guidance for borrowers to calculate their revenue reductions and maximum loan amounts under the program.

U.S. Department of Labor Suspends Enforcement of Race and Sex Stereotyping Executive Order

The U.S. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, under the U.S. Department of Labor, issued a notice that it will suspend the enforcement and the collection of information under the president’s Executive Order 13950 – Combatting Race and Sex Stereotyping. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction on December 22, 2020, that prohibits the federal agency from implementing, enforcing, or effectuating Section 4 of the executive order “in any manner against any recipient of federal funding.” The preliminary injunction was effective immediately.

CDC Issues Order Requiring COVID Tests for International Travelers Arriving in U.S.; Effective January 26, 2021

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an order, effective January 26, 2021, that requires international travelers arriving in the U.S. to take a COVID test no more than three days before their flight departure and provide proof of their negative results or provide documentation of their recovery from the virus. The CDC has additionally posted further guidance about the appropriate documentation to be used and frequently asked questions. Further updates and information concerning the visa process for international artists can be found on the Artists from Abroad website.

National Endowment for the Arts Update

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chair Mary Anne Carter recently sent an email to interested stakeholders announcing her resignation from the independent federal agency, effective tomorrow, January 20. It is expected that the Biden-Harris Administration will name a new group of leadership appointees in the coming days. Chief of Staff Mark Griffin will remain at the NEA and transition to a senior advisor role within the agency. The U.S. Congress provided increased funding ($167.5 million) for the NEA for the remainder of the 2021 fiscal year, an increase of $5.25 million over FY2020 enacted funding levels.