Article Published: 10 May 2022

Arts Advocacy Update

Biden-Harris Administration Announce Initiative to Advance Equity and Racial Justice Through the Federal Government

Per an executive order (Executive Order 13985) signed in January 2021 to advance racial equity and support underserved communities through the federal government, the Biden-Harris administration has announced an initiative to implement the executive order with over 90 federal agencies, including all federal arts and cultural-related agencies, releasing equity action plans to advance equity and racial justice. Federal agencies conducted equity assessments concerning three to five of their high-impact services for individuals, families, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local communities and released their equity action plans to ensure accountability and metrics for success.

The objective is to embed equity through the following regular and daily activities within the federal government:

  • Reduce administrative burdens and simplifying government services.
  • Engage with stakeholders and communities who have been historically excluded from policy-making processes.
  • Narrow wealth gaps through federal contracting and procurement.
  • Deliver equity through grantmaking.
  • Build accountability for equity through data collection and reporting.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released its equity action plan that is aligned with its strategic plan for FY2022–FY2026 with the objective to “model diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the arts through all its activities and operations.” The goals of the plan include the following:

  • Address and reduce the gap between the availability of arts programming and the participation of underserved groups.
  • Expand engagement with underserved communities through webinars and key partner organizations.
  • Develop concrete policies and procedures for providing access accommodations for persons with disabilities and limited English proficiency.
  • Determine feasibility of expanding demographic data collection related to grant beneficiaries, staff, and leadership of grant recipient organizations.
  • Increase awareness of contract and procurement opportunities to HUBZone and other underrepresented groups.

It is important for the NEA and other federal arts and cultural-related agencies to be held accountable for the implementation of their equity action plans. OPERA America will monitor implementation across all federal agencies that provide programming, services, and resources to the arts and cultural sector. Members and interested stakeholders are encouraged to keep OPERA America posted concerning their regular engagement across the federal government. Questions and inquiries concerning the NEA’s equity action plan can be directed to artsequity@arts.gov.

 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Release Plan to Address Visa Processing Backlogs

On March 10, Congress passed a $1.5 trillion omnibus appropriations (funding) bill (H.R. 2471) that funds the federal government for the remainder of FY2022, ending September 30. The funding package provides $409.5 million for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is $281.7 million over FY2021-enacted funding levels, including $275 million for application processing to address USCIS backlogs and delays. USCIS announced several new actions to reduce visa processing backlogs, expand premium processing, and provide relief to work permit holders, including new internal cycle time goals. The objective is to improve processing times with applicants and petitions and ensure they received decisions on their cases in a timely manner. Further information concerning various performing arts visa issues can be found on the Artists From Abroad website.