Arts Advocacy Update
On September 30, Congress enacted a continuing appropriations (CR) bill — H.R. 6833, P.L. 117-180 — which continues to fund the federal government at FY2022-enacted levels until December 16, 2022. The extension will allow Congress more time to pass a more permanent funding bill for the remainder of FY2023, ending September 30, 2023. The National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities will continue to receive their FY2022-enacted funding level of $180 million each.
Here is the section-by-section breakdown of the bill, which also provides additional funding to combat the ongoing pandemic and provide natural disaster relief. Here is a press release by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chair concerning the bill.
In July, the U.S. House passed H.R. 8294, a package of six appropriations bills that funds several federal agencies for FY2023, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Congress is tasked with passing 12 appropriations bills each fiscal year. H.R. 8294 provides a record-level $207 million each for the NEA and the NEH. Here is a press release from the U.S. House Appropriations Committee concerning passage of the legislation by the full chamber. Here is a history of annual appropriations by Congress for the NEA.
OPERA America has a current action alert encouraging its members and interested stakeholders throughout the opera community to contact their U.S. senators to support and pass increased funding for all the federal arts and cultural-related agencies and the Arts in Education program administered by the U.S. Department of Education, including “at least $207 million” for the NEA and NEH. The opera community and overall arts and cultural sector continues to deal with the ongoing pandemic with low-to-modest ticket sales from a cautious general public. The summer and fall seasons have also caused adverse weather conditions that have impacted businesses, nonprofit organizations, and millions of families and students across the nation. Support for the arts and cultural sector continues to be important during these challenging times.
The Biden-Harris administration designated the month of October as National Arts and Humanities Month. The presidential proclamation indicates the administration’s support for the arts and cultural sector. The proclamation also indicates the reestablishment of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and directs cooperation and collaboration across the federal government to strengthen the nation’s health, economy, equity, and civic life.
OPERA America encourages its members and interested stakeholders across the opera community to increase their civic engagement, including advocacy, community outreach/engagement, voter registration/get-out-the-vote efforts, and collaboration with other community-based organizations to provide public programming and resources.
OPERA America encourages its members and interested stakeholders to increase their involvement in the upcoming November elections, specifically urging their communities to register to vote and to ensure eligible voters get to the polls. The general elections scheduled for Tuesday, November 8 are consequential for the arts and cultural sector as with any election cycle.
At the federal level, the upcoming elections are mid-term elections — between the Presidential election — in which all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested. At the state level, 39 state and territorial governor seats will be contested as well as most state legislative seats. At the local level, seats will be contested across the country. Please go to the website of your local board of elections to find out more about your local elections and referenda to be voted upon. Please note that this is the first election to be impacted by redistricting as a result of the 2020 Census.
Nonprofit Vote has great resources for how to increase your civic engagement during any election cycle. For more information about what is at stake in your state and local community, please go to your state’s election office website.
Below is information about what 501(c)3 organizations can do and cannot do during an election cycle:
What a 501(c)3 Organization Cannot Do:
It is important to note the Internal Revenue Code that governs section 501(c)(3) organizations concerning elections. Under the Internal Revenue Code, such organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Any contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.” In other words, 501(c)3 organizations CANNOT ask people to vote for specific candidates and they cannot donate funds to political candidates or political campaigns.
What a 501(c)3 Organization Can Do:
However, 501(c)3 organizations CAN encourage people to participate in the election process, including voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, in a non-partisan way and without bias toward a certain candidate or political party. 501(c)3 organizations can contact candidates and parties in an election, both to seek their views on issues and to communicate the organization’s views. 501(c)3 organizations CAN also take public positions on local referenda, ballot initiatives, propositions, tax levies, etc., if they do not cross the line into party or candidate endorsement.
What Individuals Can Do:
Individuals within 501(c) 3 organizations CAN get involved in elections, as American citizens, as much as they want. However, individuals are not allowed to associate themselves with their organization in any way in their political activities. Click here for further information concerning allowable and prohibited activities during elections under the Internal Revenue Code that governs 501(c)(3) organizations. Click here for further information concerning lobbying activities under the Internal Revenue Code that governs 501(c)(3) organizations.
Further information about Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules concerning nonprofit organizations' engagement in election cycles can be found here.
OPERA America is an active member of the Performing Arts Visa Working Group (PAVWG) that is working with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Homeland Security to schedule virtual session(s) sometime this fall and/or winter to update stakeholders concerning the visa process and to learn about stakeholders’ experiences with the process.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur Jaddou and Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman Phyllis Coven held a pre-recorded, hour-long fireside chat on September 21 to discuss various FY2022 challenges and accomplishments and to discuss the way forward for the federal agency with its work during FY2023. The agency officials discussed the following issues: processing times; backlog reduction efforts; customer service; and funding and congressional appropriations. Ombudsman Coven highlighted the federal agency’s 2022 Annual Report to Congress; recommendations on USCIS’ fee-for-service funding model; and types of assistance that the office provides to the public.
Further information about the CIS Ombudsman’s annual reports can be found here. Opera companies can find out the status of their visa petitions on the USCIS website or by visiting the USCIS contact center.
Further information concerning various performing arts visa issues can be found on the Artists from Abroad website.