October 16 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:

  • Federal Stimulus Bill
  • FY21 State Budget
  • End of the Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures
  • New guidance from the Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education on musical instruments

Federal Stimulus
The White House, Senate and House continue to negotiate a Fourth COVID-19 stimulus bill. The House proposed $2.2 trillion, while the White House is urging more than $1.8 trillion and the Senate won’t got above $500 billion. On Monday Speaker Pelosi gave Secretary Mnuchin and the White House until Tuesday to reach a compromise if they wanted a stimulus bill before November 3 (the general election).
Unfortunately there isn’t much hope that a compromise will be reached before November 3. You can read more about the more recent developments in The Hill.

State Budget Update
Last week Governor Baker released a revised FY21 budget proposal. The new budget is $45.5 billion MORE than his original budget proposal in January. The additional amount would be covered by $1.35 billion from the rainy day fund and $834 million in medicaid reimbursements from the Federal government.

MASSCreative is tracking the following budget items:

  • Mass Cultural Council budget recommended $16.3 million. This is the same amount Governor Baker recommended in January, but almont $2 million less than FY20.
  • Chapter 70 Aid to Cities and Towns (education funding) recommended $5.3 billion. This is an increase from FY20 but a little less than the recommendation in January.
  • Small Business Technical Assistance Grant Programs recommended $6 million which is a $2 million increase from January. Regional Economic Development Grants increased to $6 million from $1 million in January.

There are two items that are missing from the revised proposal:

  • Governor Baker is recommending that the implementation of the Student Opportunity Act be postponed. The Student Opportunity Act was signed into law in November 2019 and made changes to the school funding formula to better account for costs associated with special education, employee health care, and teaching low-income students and English language learners.
  • Governor Baker postponed the implementation of the State Charitable Giving Deduction which was set to got into effect this year. The state charitable tax deduction will enable taxpayers to claim a deduction on their state income tax for charitable donations made throughout the tax year. You can learn more about the State Charitable Giving Deduction from Mass Nonprofit Network.

Both of these policies have an impact on the creative sector. For many schools arts education is at the top of the list when budget cuts are needed. Without additional state funding arts education, which is part of a well rounded education, will not be accessible to every student in Massachusetts. The state charitable giving deduction was another way to incentivize donors to give to arts and cultural nonprofits. As the prolonged shut down of the creative sector continues, we need to find more ways that donors will give to help our organizations continue.

The FY21 budget process is certainly unusual extending well beyond its traditional timing of late summer. The Mass Cultural Council released a statement on the revised budget. This week the Joint Committee on Ways and Means will hold an invitation only hearing on the FY21 budget. MASSCreative as well as Mass Cultural Council will submit written testimony in support of the cultural and creative sector.

Over the weekend the Temporary Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures ended. The legislation included an option for the Governor to extend the moratorium, but last week Governor Baker announced he would not extend it in favor of an Eviction Diversion Plan. The plan includes $171 million in rental assistance.  MASSCreative stands with housing advocates to support and advocate for an continued moratorium on evictions. City Life / Vida Urbana and Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association have excellent resources regarding eviction advocacy.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Guidance
Last week the Commission of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced updated guidance for in-person musical instrument instruction: “When in-person school is occurring, wind and brass instruments may be used indoors or outdoors with 10 feet of distance between individuals. Masks, including instrument masks that have a slit for the instrument, and the use of bell covers are encouraged if possible. Spit valves should be emptied onto a disposable, absorbent pad rather than the floor so that contents can be contained.”

This is good news for many students eager to play wind and brass instruments as part of their music education. The guidance follows recommendations from the National Federation of State High School Associations in accordance with the Performance Arts Aerosol Study.

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published this page in COVID-19 Updates 2020-10-19 16:10:30 -0400

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