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Article Published: 20 Jul 2021

Arts Advocacy Updates — July 20, 2021

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program Update

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) continues to work through initial grant applications submitted under the $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program. The SBA released an updated program progress report (as of July 19) and public data (as of July 20) indicating the number and types of grantees as well as their initial grant award amounts. It is anticipated that the SBA will also release an updated FAQ document by the end of the week to provide additional post-grant award guidance and specific information concerning the appeal process (for declined applications), reconsideration process (for lower-than-requested grant amounts), and the supplemental grant award phase scheduled to commence sometime in early August. Once the appeal and reconsideration processes are finalized, these processes will last for two weeks for applicants and will end before the supplemental grant award phase begins. There is still funding available within the program, and the program will end once the funding runs out.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Releases Second Phase of Grantmaking

A reminder that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced its second phase of grantmaking ($82 million) based on the $135 million in emergency funding that the federal agency received from the American Rescue Plan, enacted in March 2021. In late April, the NEA announced its first phase ($52 million) of grantmaking, for state arts agencies and regional arts organizations. The second phase of grantmaking is available to all eligible arts-related organizations and local arts agencies. These grants will not be limited to prior NEA grantees. Grants to eligible organizations can fund staff salaries, fees/stipends for artists and/or contractual personnel to provide services for specific activities as part of organizational operations, facilities costs, costs associated with health and safety supplies for staff and/or visitors and audiences, and/or marketing and promotion costs. Applicants will be able to request a grant amount for $50,000, $100,000 or $150,000. Cost-share or matching funds are not required. Applicants should select a grant amount that reflects their overall organization size and internal capacity. The NEA anticipates making approximately 800 awards, although there is no predetermined number of awards per grant amount. The application deadline for arts-related organizations for the second phase is August 12, 2021. For local arts agencies, the application deadline is July 22, 2021.

FY2022 Appropriations for National Endowment for the Arts Scheduled for Consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives Next Week

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to consider seven appropriations bills next week to fund various federal agencies, programs, and initiatives, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), for fiscal year 2022, beginning on October 1. The NEA and NEH, as well as other federal arts and cultural-related agencies, are funded under the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations recently passed the FY2022 Interior appropriations bill, which provides $201 million for both the NEA and NEH as initially proposed by the Biden-Harris administration.

Under ideal circumstances, the U.S. Congress would pass 12 separate appropriations bills to fund the federal government each fiscal year. The other six appropriations bills that will be considered by the full U.S. House next week are Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

OPERA America continues to aggressively work with its arts and cultural sector partners to engage the U.S. Congress concerning increased funding for all federal arts and cultural-related agencies, programs, and initiatives, as the arts and cultural sector is a key component of the U.S. economy.

OPERA America Working to Address Backlog of Visa Petitions for International Artists at the U.S. Department of State 

OPERA America is working with its arts and cultural sector partners to address the continued backlog of visa petitions for international artists being reviewed and processed by the U.S. Department of State. OPERA America is a member of the Performing Arts Visa Working Group that sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May urging that the U.S. State Department address specific issues concerning international artistry as performing arts organizations resume their operations, public performing, and events in earnest this summer and beyond. The signatory letter indicates that specific clarification of artist eligibility is necessary to ensure that opportunities for the National Interest Exception are made equitably available to arts beneficiaries across all consular locations. Additionally, as consulates resume issuing visas, consideration should be given to the time- and date-specific nature of arts events. The working group also urges that the State Department provide flexibility for those artists that received visa approvals prior to the onset of COVID-19 and that will now need to alter the planned dates for U.S.-based performances. Issues concerning international artists remain a top priority for OPERA America, and the Working Group continues to engage the State Department on various issues of interest. Further information concerning visa processing issues can be found on the Artists from Abroad website.