Performing Arts Alliance Newsletter
    July 21, 2016

PAA Comments on USCIS Proposed Fee Increase

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) is considering an increase to the filing fee for an I-129 petition for O and P artists visas, making it more costly to apply for the required visas for foreign guest artists. The current fee is $325 and the proposed fee is $460. This proposed increase does not affect the Premium Processing Service fee.

The Performing Arts Visa Working Group, of which PAA is a member, submitted comments to USCIS objecting to the steep fee increase, urging consideration of a more gradual one.  The comments ask that any increases be accompanied by improvements to the O and P visa process such as reduced processing times for petitions and improved reliability and consistency with petition adjudication. You can read the complete comments here.

Appropriations Updates

Cultural Exchanges
The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved $107.69 million for the Office of Citizen Exchanges, an increase of $5.69 million over FY16. The amount approved overall for ECA is $627.8 million, a $36.89 million increase over FY16.

In the House, the full Appropriations Committee approved $112 million for the Office of Citizen Exchanges, $4.31 million more than recommended by Senate appropriators and $10 million more than FY16. The amount approved overall for ECA is $602.79 million, which is $11.89 million over FY16. 

The amounts reported for the Office of Citizen Exchanges represent the total funding for a variety of exchange programs, including arts, sports, and youth programs. Federal budgets do not indicate totals for each individual program. 

National Endowment for the Arts
The House Appropriations Committee has recommended $149,849,000 for the NEA's FY17 budget. This amount is equal to the President's FY17 request for the agency, and is a $2 million increase over the NEA's FY16 budget. During consideration by the full House of Representatives, members of Congress did not file any harmful amendments related to the NEA. The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $148,449,000--just a $500,000 increase over FY16.  

Both House and Senate appropriators lauded the work of the NEA's Healing Arts Partnership which serves veterans and their families. The recommended funding increases would support current Healing Arts Partnership program sites and help it expand to new sites in the near future. 

Arts Education
The House Appropriations Committee recommended $1 billion for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) program. New under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the SSAE program combines some of the former subject-specific programs authorized under No Child Left Behind to create a new area of funding that states can use to support all areas of a "well-rounded" education, including the arts. ESSA also maintains the distinct Assistance for Arts Education program.

As in prior years, the House committee recommended no funding for the Assistance for Arts Education program for FY17, stating that "States and school districts may use funds from the SSAE grants to support arts education." Arts education programs were funded at $27 million for FY16. The House Committee's recommendations are a steep contrast from the Senate bill which approved $300 million for SSAE and $27 million for arts education.

All 12 federal spending bills have been reported out of both the full House and Senate Appropriations Committees. The next step in the regular order for the appropriations process is for each bill to be debated by all members on the House and Senate floors. Both chambers are out on recess now through September 6, and as this is an election year, it is assumed that Congress will not have time to debate each bill. Instead, it is expected to vote on a continuing resolution to keep government funding available past the October 1 beginning of the new fiscal year. While your members are at home these next few weeks, connect with them and express the importance of the arts in your communities. 
The Performing Arts Alliance (PAA) is a 501c4 multi-disciplinary coalition of national service organizations from the professional nonprofit performing arts field. Through legislative and grassroots action, PAA advocates before the U.S. Congress and key policy makers for national policies that enhance and foster the contributions the performing arts make to America.