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Congress Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Legislation

Category: Advocacy Alert
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Advocacy Alert – March 12, 2021

Congress Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Legislation

Yesterday, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319; Summaries and Resources here) which was recently passed by the U.S. Congress. The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief legislation includes several provisions important to museums:

  • Provides an additional $1.25 Billion for Shuttered Venue Operator (SVO) grants for a total of $16.25 billion. After securing the inclusion of museums in this new grant program in the December relief package, the Alliance successfully advocated for increasing its funding to ensure all who are eligible, including all eligible museums, can benefit. Despite the Alliance’s advocacy efforts, the new law does not remove the eligibility requirement for “fixed seating” that would have allowed more museums to benefit from this program.
  • Allows nonprofits to apply for both the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and SVO (which is expected to open in the next several weeks), but the SVO grant would need to be reduced by the PPP amount received. (See section 5005.)
  • Contains an additional $7.25 billion for PPP loans. The PPP application deadline is still set at March 31. Nonprofit organizations, including AAM, business groups, and accounting professionals continue to press for extending the sunset for several more months to give employers more time to apply.
  • Expands PPP eligibility to nonprofits with more than 500 employees that operate at multiple locations, as long as no more than 500 employees work at any one location.
  • Increases reimbursement for unemployment insurance for nonprofits who self-insure from 50% to 75% through September 6, 2021, which was set to expire March 14. The Alliance along with the broader nonprofit sector will continue advocating for 100% reimbursement through 2021 and for retroactivity to March 2020. In a recent Alliance survey, roughly 30 percent of museums indicated they self-insure for unemployment insurance.
  • Provides $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, which the Alliance urged, while limiting the use of funds to several different eligible categories. Of interest to museums, Sections 602 (state) and 603 (local) allow funding to be used “to respond to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality.” The Alliance encourages museums to reach out to their state and local leaders to make them aware of this provision and opportunity for funding.
  • Provides $30.35 billion for afterschool and summer learning programs. Funds will go to state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs). Funding to LEAs includes $21.9 billion specifically for learning recovery; afterschool, summer, and expanded learning programs are allowable uses. Funding to SEAs includes a total of $8.45 billion which includes $1.22 billion set-aside for summer enrichment, $1.22 billion set-aside for afterschool programs, and $6.1 billion specifically for learning recovery, including afterschool/summer/expanded learning. (See section 2001.) The Alliance encourages museums to reach out to their state and local education agencies to make them aware of this provision and opportunity for funding.
  • Provides $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and $135 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for COVID-19 relief grants.
  • Provides $200 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support states’ efforts to expand digital network access.
  • Does NOT expand charitable giving provisions but legislation was recently introduced to do so which the Alliance strongly supports. See the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act (S. 618/H.R. 1704).

In addition, the American Rescue Plan Act would, among other things, provide additional funding for COVID-19 vaccines, treatment, and testing; approve $1,400 stimulus checks for most taxpayers; increase the child tax credit and earned income tax credit; and extend the tax credit for nonprofits and other employers that provide paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave through September 30, 2021 (the credits are currently set to expire on March 31). The measure also provides more funding for childcare providers, the Corporation for National and Community Service, restaurants, food assistance, housing and homelessness prevention, and assistance for nonprofits providing services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The new law extends unemployment compensation benefits through September 6, maintains supplemental payments at $300/week (down from $400/week in the House-passed bill), and exempts the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits from income taxes for individuals with total earnings of less than $150,000 per year.

AAM will continue to advocate for additional COVID-19 relief and recovery funding, strengthening of charitable giving incentives, advancing the interests of museums in the law’s implementation, and the rest of our legislative agenda in the days and weeks ahead. This agenda includes advocating for increased funding for the IMLS Office of Museum Services. Please see the following reminder to contact your legislators.

REMINDER: House and Senate Appropriations Letters Now Circulating – Ask Your Legislators to Sign On Today!

Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY), David McKinley (R-WV), Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Andy Barr (R-KY), and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are now circulating letters in their respective chambers calling for robust funding for the Office of Museum Services (OMS) at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

It just takes a couple of minutes to use our template and ask your Representative and Senators to sign on today. These letters are a key measure of legislators’ support for federal funding for museums, and they are especially important now to build on our momentum from Museums Advocacy Day. The deadline for Representatives to sign this letter has yet to be determined while the deadline for Senators has been extended to Friday, March 26. If you contacted your legislators already but have yet to hear back, please send another round of letters. Don’t be shy. Securing these signatures sometimes takes several touches.

Please contact your Representative and Senators today!

Thank you for your continued advocacy for museums. Visit www.aam-us.org/advocacy to access all of AAM’s advocacy resources.

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