In just a couple of turbulent weeks, COVID-19 has already caused a devastating economic impact for both for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. With social distancing and stay at home ordinances in place, the creative and cultural sector felt this impact in a major way. In addition to non-profit organizations, for those in our sector who work in the gig economy (self-employed and freelance artists, musicians as an example), the disruption of income has been particularly tumultuous. With bars and musical venues closed, theatre stages going dark, and arts in education initiatives on pause, both the activity and income flow in our sector has stopped.
According to a recent survey by Americans for the Arts, the financial losses to date for the entire sector are estimated to be $3.6 billion. Given that losses documented in the survey have occurred only in the last two months, Americans for the Arts anticipates additional billions in revenue losses in the coming weeks and months.
In order for us to rebound and once again flourish, we must have legislation in place that acknowledges the financial hardship our sector faces and provides support for those affected. This week, the Senate passed legislation for the COVID-19 response relief package, which includes financial help for our sector. This legislation has moved forward into the House. At this time, it is unknown if the House will make changes to the bill before signing on.
Our sector’s advocacy has been working thus far, but we have further to go. In particular, we must advocate for several crucial items mentioned below. Since the House's action is critical to the eventual passage of a relief bill, please consider contacting your House leaders. We must encourage them to expedite the passage of legislation that will help members of our sector.
Americans for the Arts has made it easy for you to show your support for our sector during this critical time. You can use their online arts advocacy tool to contact your representatives today. They provide a drafted letter, with an option to revise or add additional personal notes. Please take action now by contacting the elected officials that represent you.
During this critical time, Erie Arts & Culture has joined Americans for the Arts in advocating for the following to be included in the legislative package currently being negotiated:
Support $4 billion in COVID-19 relief funding to be administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services—House Arts Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and House STEAM Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) led a letter to House Leadership with this ask, Senate Cultural Caucus Co-Chair Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) did the same in the Senate. Waive matching requirements and general operating support reprogramming for FY2020 grantees, as well as for COVID-19-specific grantmaking;
Encourage charitable giving by increasing the allowable amount of the proposed $300 above-the-line tax deduction available to taxpayers that do not itemize their returns, and removing AGI limits on allowed deductions for charitable giving;
Ensure that proposed forgivable SBA disaster relief loans support all arts and culture workers by: specifying that access to forgivable loans is available for self-employed workers, increasing the employer eligibility threshold by applying the 500 employee cap to full time employees, and eliminating the employer size cap for nonprofit organizations;
Support pandemic unemployment benefits for workers ineligible for state unemployment benefits, which will provide essential support for self-employed workers in the arts and culture sector; and
Ensure arts eligibility for additional forms of disaster relief, such as Community Development Block Grants, education and lifelong learning programs, and health and wellness initiatives.
We thank you in advance for your advocacy at this crucial time for our sector.