Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Late on December 21, the U.S. House and Senate passed a new $900 billion Coronavirus Economic Relief Agreement along with the fiscal year (FY) 2021 Omnibus Appropriations bill to keep the government funded through September 2021. This huge combination bill was passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis and is over 5,000 pages long and will take days to unpack all its contents. President Trump is expected to sign the Congressionally-approved bills into law soon.

The considerations for the arts and culture sector in this relief package are the results of hard work by advocates like you across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic gripped our country in March. The highlights below reflect the top-line items uncovered so far that directly assist the arts and culture sector, nonprofits, and individuals. 

FY 2021 Appropriations Highlights Include:

  • $167.5 million for both the NEA and NEH (a $5.25 million increase from FY 2020 funding levels) and waiver language that allows FY 2019, FY 2020, and FY 2021 grants to be used for general operating support, as requested by arts advocates;
  • $257 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services 
  • $475 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • An increase of $500,000 for the federal Arts In Education grant program, to a level of $30.5 million

Pandemic Relief Package Highlights Include:

  • Second round of direct IRS stimulus checks at $600/person (phasing out after $75K income for single filers and $150K for joint filers)
  • Reestablishes the $300 above-the-line charitable deduction for 2021 and permits a $600 deduction for couples filing jointly in 2021;
  • $284 billion for first and second round Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans, simplifies the forgiveness application process for smaller loans up to $150,000 and extends eligibility to 501c6 organizations, like local chambers of commerce. The PPP program provided over $13 billion in its first round to creative economy organizations. 
  • $15 billion to support live entertainment venues & cultural institutions - a new source of relief for eligible entities;
  • $20 billion to replenish new Economic Industry Disaster Loans (EIDL) through the Small Business Administration
  • Extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit through July 1, 2021
  • $7 billion broadband internet access across the country
  • $82 billion for education & expansion of Pell Grants; $10 billion for childcare
  • Funds for speedy, equitable and free vaccine distribution

Extensions of Unemployment Policies To Support the Creative Workforce:

  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program has been extended to April 5 (with a phase-out beginning in mid-March). This includes an extension of the eligibility period to 50 weeks.
  • For salaried/hourly workers, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program has also been extended to April 5 once the applicant exhausts their state Unemployment Insurance (UI).
  • “Mixed earners” with 1099/W2 income who were ineligible for PUA will receive a weekly bonus of $100 for the duration of their state UI/PEUC benefits.
  • And, all recipients of unemployment (state, PUA, PEUC) will receive an extra $300 week from December 26 to March 14.

This relief has been many months in the making and a longtime overdue. We are thankful for the advocacy leadership of the state arts advocacy alliances that increased their federal advocacy far beyond any traditional year of work, as well as dozens of national organizations who worked tirelessly to fight for relief legislation. There will be more details to share in the coming weeks and, like we did following the passage of the CARES Act, we'll provide memos, technical assistance, and webinars to help the arts sector access these funds.