Arts Advocacy Update
According to the latest program progress report (as of January 3) released by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) concerning the $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program, the SBA has awarded $13.8 billion in initial and supplemental grant awards, including initial grant awards for 3,300+ live performing arts organization operators and supplemental grant awards for 2,300 live performing arts organization operators. December 29 was the last date for the SBA to reissue expired or declined appeal-phase or supplemental-phase action items. Requests received after this date will not be approved.
The SBA is shifting to its grant closeout, monitoring, and closeout phases this month. The federal agency held a series of information sessions in December for all SVOG grantees concerning grantee, compliance, and closeout phases. The information sessions were recorded and can be found on the SBA’s YouTube channel.
OPERA America continues to work with its partners across the arts and cultural sector to ensure that any remaining program funding does not return to the U.S. General Treasury but is preserved to continue to support the sector.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is scheduled to announce awardees for its American Rescue Plan grants this month. The NEA was initially scheduled to announce the awardees in December after a scheduled meeting of the National Council on the Arts but pushed the announcement back for various reasons. Back in March, Congress enacted the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that provided $135 million in emergency funding for the NEA as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities.
OPERA America is aggressively working with its partners across the arts and cultural sector, nonprofit community, and business community to reinstate the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) Program for the fourth quarter of 2021. OPERA America is an organizational sponsor of the ERTC Reinstatement Act (H.R. 6161), bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last month to reinstate the credit for eligible entities. The ERTC has helped the arts and cultural sector, including many opera companies, retain their employees and contractors since March 2020. OPERA America is working to push passage of this legislation in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. The full text of the bill is available here, or you can refer to the summary one-pager. OPERA America is participating in a national stakeholder call scheduled for January 6 and will provide further information to members so they can lean in with their voices to urge the bill’s passage.
The Biden-Harris administration recently released its plan to combat the latest surge in the pandemic, which is adversely impacting the arts and cultural sector, including the performing arts industry, particularly as the industry attempts to restart public performances and events. Many arts-related public performances and events scheduled in December were postponed or canceled because of the latest surge in the pandemic. The administration's plan calls for increased support for hospitals, robust access to free testing, and expanded capacity to provide vaccinations. The plan specifically will provide 500 million free at-home rapid tests this month to families and individuals by request. The administration is developing a website for families and individuals to request such tests and have them delivered to their homes for free. Many aspects of the administration’s plan have yet to be executed, including the development of the home testing website. OPERA America will keep its members and interested stakeholders updated with any new developments as the administration executes its plan.
Please keep OPERA America posted about how the current pandemic is adversely impacted your company/no-profit organization and local arts community. Also, OPERA America encourages its members and interested stakeholders to capture and share successes and best practices as to how various federal pandemic relief programs have helped support your company/nonprofit organization, the local arts community, and individual creative workers in your community. Such adverse impacts, successes, and best practices will be utilized to communicate the importance of continued support for the creative economy, including the opera community, and creative workers during and beyond the current pandemic. Please share with Tony Shivers, OPERA America's director of government affairs, at TShivers@operaamerica.org.