Americans for the Arts
Urge Support for the Arts in COVID-19 Relief Legislation
Current Status:
On October 1, the U.S. House passed a “skinny” version of the HEROES Act (which the House originally passed in May). This $2.2 trillion bill included provisions that are greatly needed by the arts and culture sector such as:
  • $135 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services for grants to support the general operations of recipients and language to permit the waiver of matching requirements.
  • A second round of Payroll Protection Program (PPP), loans of up to $2 million for certain hard-hit businesses; a set aside 30 percent of PPP funds for nonprofits of all sizes and types to receive first-time PPP loans; and a streamlined loan forgiveness process with an expanded list of allowable uses for the funds that would qualify for forgiveness. The PPP program provided at least $13 billion to the nation's creative economy so far, including $1.8 billion for nonprofit arts organizations directly. 
  • $10 billion for grants to live independent venue operators, including non-profit, government and for-profit owned or operated venues, modeled on the "Save Our Stages Act."
  • Extension of weekly $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation for W2 and Self-employed workers through January 31, 2021, and a provision to support "mixed earners."
The bill passed on a mostly party-line vote of 214 – 207. Unfortunately, Congress and the White House have not yet come to a bipartisan agreement on another COVID-19 relief package. However, Congress must act now to save the arts and culture sector and other nonprofits around the country.

Current Ask:
Americans for the Arts and dozens of national arts organizations and state arts alliances, have signed a joint statement outlining a set of policy asks that we are taking to every member of Congress. Those policy requests—included those from the House’s passage of the “skinny” HEROES Act—are embedded in the messages (to the right) that you can send to your congressional delegation. They are customized for your House and Senate members.

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the CARES Act. The CARES Act included $300 million in economic relief to support nonprofit cultural organizations, museums, libraries, public broadcasting, and state and local arts and humanities agencies, as well as substantial additional economic relief opportunities for independent contractors like "gig economy" workers such as actors, musicians, artists, and nonprofit organizations and small businesses, including those working in the creative economy. This was a good first step, but the arts sector faces economic losses to date of $14.1 billion (and growing).  

On May 15th, the House approved the "HEROES Act" - a Democratic-led $3 trillion bill that would provide additional, and new, funding across the federal government, including, limited support for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. We are waiting on the Senate to consider possible action. 

On July 27, U.S. Senate Republicans released their proposal for the next COVID-19 relief bill - the HEALS Act (an acronym for "Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection, Schools"). Now, crucial negotiations will take place in the coming days to move the legislation through the Senate in a way that will allow a compromise bill with the HEROES Act which the House approved in May.

At the beginning of September, negotiations between Democratic U.S. House and Senate Leadership and the Trump administration were contentious and essentially broke down. This is after two key programs had recently expired:
  • Ended on July 31: The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, providing an additional $600/week to the 20 million Americans receiving state unemployment insurance ended on July 31, 2020. Many states opened up pandemic unemployment for self-employed, gig workers very late and with no ability to re-open cultural venues any time soon, we need to bring back and extend pandemic benefits.
  • Ended on August 8: The Small Business Administration’s highly popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) end with a surplus of close to $130 billion. We are urging Congress re-establish access to these funds and allow the arts and culture sector, including nonprofits and gig workers, to have an opportunity to apply for a second forgivable loan with these surplus funds.  
On September 10, the U.S. Senate failed to advance a bill put forth by Senate Republicans that was a “skinny” version of the HEALS Act (which was introduced in July). This bill had about $500 million in COVID-19 relief funding and included: Liability Relief; Unemployment Insurance extension at $300/week; Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans extension with a three-prong test to meet the definition of “small business;” Postal Service Assistance; Educational Support and Childcare; Pandemic Preparation and Strategic Stockpiles; Relief Funds for States; Enhanced Charitable Giving Deduction; and Other Various Emergency Appropriations.

As of November 30, 2020, the Coronavirus has had a devastating $14.6 billion economic impact on America’s arts sector with a 63% unemployment rate among artists and gig workers. Since the first U.S. case was reported in January, 99% of arts and culture organizations have canceled events—some as far out as 2021—resulting in a loss of 481 million ticketed admissions and billions of dollars more lost in event-related spending by audiences at local businesses (restaurants, lodging, retail), impacting 867,000 jobs.
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