August 21 Policy Update

MASSCreative continues to monitor and report on state and federal policy that supports equitable communities and a stronger, more inclusive creative sector. Here's the Policy Update from the last two week including:

  • School reopening plans and arts education guidance
  • What we can expect from federal and state government this fall.

Federal Update
Congress has entered August recess with no movement on key bills to provide relief and protection to the arts and cultural sector. We continue to monitor the status of a fourth federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus bill, the HEALS Act in the Senate and the HEROES Act in the House.  However there is no new movement on these bills. Similarly, the Save our Stages Act and the RESTART Act have not progressed. However, we expect that following the August recess and Congress returning to work these bills will continue to move. We encourage arts and cultural advocates to continue connecting with members of Congress on these bills.   

State Updates
The legislature is conducting informal sessions during the month of August. We anticipate that once September begins, activity on bills to protect the arts and cultural sector will resume, including a reconciled version of the economic development bond bill, An act enabling partnerships for growth and the development of the FY21 Mass Cultural Council budget. The Mass Cultural Council recently released a useful blog post on the FY21 Mass Cultural Council budget process.  

Reopening MA Schools
Last week was the deadline for reopening plans for schools and school districts. 70% of schools plan to reopen with in-person and hybrid models. Two of Massachusetts largest school districts, Boston and Worcester  will start students remotely and will offer a hybrid model of in-person and online learning. 

MASSCreative joins its Arts for All Coalition partners in encouraging school districts to incorporate arts education - across all disciplines - for both in-person and remote learning curriculum.  A recent report, the International Coalition of Performing Arts Aerosol Study Round Two includes data and medical based recommendations for conducting in-person arts education in band, choral and theatrical performance safely. Members of the Arts for All coalition sent a letter to Commissioner Riley of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education encouraging the Department to review the study and incorporate the recommendations into guidance for schools and school districts. 

Municipal Arts and Cultural Relief
Over 500 residents, business owners and creative workers, including Representatives Barber and Provost signed a petition to Mayor Curtatone, Somerville City Council and the Arts Council urging them to act now to protect Somerville’s arts community. The effort, led by community arts leaders and activists included the following requests:

  • Allocate city, state, and federal funds for the Somerville arts community, which includes its nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, with grants awarded on the basis of organizational need and impact. 
  • Enact a property tax abatement for landlords and owners who lease to artists and arts and cultural organizations. Tie these property tax reductions to rental relief for those tenants. 
  • Temporarily relax certain permitting and licensing rules so that arts organizations can use our outdoor spaces to recapture some of their lost income for the next 3–4 months. 
  • Explore ways to create new, permanent art spaces and secure existing facilities (including through the issuance of a municipal bond to support the acquisition and dedication of a municipal building for arts use).
  • Join the arts and cultural community for a Town Forum and wider conversation of how arts organizations and the City can partner for a brighter future. 

MASSCreative partnered with Somerville arts leaders to host the petition on MASSCreative’s website. We are happy to offer a similar partnership to any local arts advocacy coalition. Email [email protected] for more information. 

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published this page in COVID-19 Updates 2020-08-24 14:29:41 -0400

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