Article Published: 31 Aug 2021

Arts Advocacy Updates

OPERA America Co-Hosts September 9 Webinar on U.S. Artist Visas and International Travel

A reminder that OPERA America is co-hosting a free webinar on Thursday, September 9 for the arts and cultural sector concerning the state of the U.S. artist visa process and international travel during the current pandemic. These are priority issues for OPERA America as its members and the overall opera community are restarting their public performances and events and are petitioning to bring international artists stateside. The webinar is being presented by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, League of American Orchestras, and Tamizdat.

The webinar is also co-hosted by the following national stakeholder organizations in the arts and cultural sector:

  • A2IM - American Association of Independent Music
  • Chamber Music America;
  • Dance/USA;
  • Folk Alliance International;
  • National Performance Network;
  • North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents; and
  • Theatre Communications Group.

Further information concerning the webinar is below.

FREE WEBINAR: U.S. Artist Visas and International Travel in the Age of COVID: Latest Update

Thursday, September 9, 3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. EDT

After more than a year of canceled, postponed, or reimagined performances, U.S. arts organizations, presenters, and agents have resumed programming and planning for the 2021–2022 season, only to find the U.S. is not quite ready to open its borders for all international artists. In this free 75-minute webinar, experts from Tamizdat and the hosts of ArtistsfromAbroad.org — the Association of Performing Arts Professionals and the League of American Orchestras — will describe what it takes to secure U.S. artist visas and navigate COVID-19 travel restrictions right now. The webinar will also cover what the current and long-term policy environment means for seeking more equitable opportunities to support international cultural activity.

This webinar will be recorded, and you can submit questions in advance to inform the focus of this event.

REGISTER NOW

It is important to note that OPERA America is also an active member of the Performing Arts Visa Working Group, made up of various national arts-related stakeholder organizations, which is engaging the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerning various issues with international travel and visa processing of international artists. The working group sent a support letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to urge action for the inclusion of artists under the National Interest Exception (NIE) and to address the continued and increasing backlog of visa petitions by various arts-related entities.

 

U.S. Small Business Administration Commenced Supplemental Grant Award Phase for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program on August 27

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) commenced the supplemental grant award phase for the $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program on Friday, August 27, to last for the next 2 weeks. The SBA has sent and will send invitations via email to apply to eligible initial grant award recipients along with additional application information and guidance. Eligible applicants will apply via the application portal. Eligible applicants will be initial grant award recipients that experienced a 70% or greater earned revenue loss in Q1-2021 compared to Q1-2019 and supplemental grant awards will be 50% of the initial grant award (pre-PPP loan amount deduction). The supplemental grant award application process will be much simpler and faster than the initial grant award process. As of August 20, the SBA is no longer accepting new applications for initial grant awards.

The SBA released its latest program progress report on August 30 with the SBA awarding $9.4 billion to 11,608 grantees. Additional public data concerning SVOG grantees can be found on the SVOG program website.

If you have any questions or issues concerning the SVOG program, please contact Tony Shivers, Director of Government Affairs, at TShivers@operaamerica.org.

 

OPERA America Signs Support Letter to Extend the Employee Retention Tax Credit for the Fourth Quarter (2021)

OPERA America has signed onto a support letter by the national nonprofit community to be sent to U.S. congressional leaders to urge the inclusion of specific improvements to the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) program in a bipartisan infrastructure package and budget reconciliation bill to be voted on this fall. A $1.2 billion bipartisan infrastructure package, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was passed by the U.S. Senate in early August and is to be considered by the U.S. House by the end of September, provides $550 billion in new spending for America’s infrastructure over five years, including improving the nation’s broadband infrastructure ($65 billion) and rebuilding the nation’s electric grid ($65 billion). To pay for the infrastructure package, the bill would eliminate the ERTC for the fourth quarter of 2021 and repurpose unused pandemic relief funding, including rescinding unobligated appropriations for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for small businesses and nonprofit groups, the Paycheck Protection Program, the Education Stabilization Fund, and pandemic relief for airline workers and other critical workers. The bill would also reclaim unused funding for federal pandemic unemployment programs due to more than half of the states (26 states) opting to end pandemic unemployment benefits early before federal pandemic unemployment programs are set to end in September.

The national nonprofit support letter urges action on three issues:

  • Allow charitable nonprofits to access the ERTC during the fourth quarter of 2021 (the bipartisan infrastructure bill repeals this access for all employers);
  • Extend the nonprofit eligibility for the ERTC through 2022 to help ensure a strong economic recovery from the pandemic; and
  • Amend the definition of nonprofit “gross receipts” for the ERTC program to better reflect revenue available to support nonprofits amid the pandemic.

The House and Senate tax policy committees are currently drafting various sections of a more robust $3.5 billion infrastructure package that will eventually go through a congressional reconciliation process this fall (simple majority vote) and will include many aspects of the Biden-Harris Administration’s proposed American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan.