The American Rescue Plan Act: What it Means for Arts and Culture in Massachusetts

On March 6, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) into law. The $1.9 Trillion relief plan includes a number of provisions that will support the creative sector’s recovery in the Commonwealth. Here’s a breakdown and additional resources to help you make sense of the law.

Direct Relief Distributed by Arts and Cultural Agencies in MA
The Institute for Museum and Libraries Services (IMLS) received $200M for relief to museums and libraries; Massachusetts is expected to receive $3.5MThe National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) each received $135M for specific relief grants.  Like relief funds for the NEA and NEH in the CARES Act, these dollars will be split 60/40: 

  • $81M will be distributed directly by the NEA and NEA respectively.
  • $54M will be distributed by state and regional agencies. 

In Massachusetts, the Mass Cultural Council, Mass Humanities and the New England Foundation for the Arts will deliberate how they will distribute these relief dollars and they will share news once programs have been developed. 

State and Local Aid Relief
The ARPA includes $350B in aid to states, territory, and tribal governments and municipalities. Current estimates set combined state and local aid to Massachusetts at $8.10B. 

There is no immediate deadline for states to spend these funds they must be for expenses “incurred prior to January 1, 2025”. 

There are four stated uses for the relief funds:

  • To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID–19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers of the State, territory, or Tribal government that are performing such essential work, or by providing grants to eligible employers that have eligible workers who perform essential work. 
  • For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue of such State, territory, or Tribal government due to the COVID–19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year of the State, territory, or Tribal government prior to the emergency.
  • To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
  • 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.

This fourth use of funds is a significant opportunity for the recovery and stabilization of the cultural economy in Massachusetts.  That’s why MASSCreative and over 150 arts and cultural organizations have endorsed An Act to Rebuild the Commonwealth’s Cultural Future, which will use $200B of ARPA state aid to create the COVID-19 Cultural Economy Relief Fund that individual creative workers, nonprofit cultural organizations and for profit arts businesses will be eligible to apply for. Learn more about the bill and write a letter to your legislators urging them to co-sponsor the legislation today.

The Shuttered Venues Operators Grant
An additional $1.25B was added to the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program that is administered by the Small Business Administration. While the grant application process is still in development, the ARP also fixed the SVOG program to allow businesses to apply for BOTH a Paycheck Protection Program loan and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, any applicant who applies for a SVOG after having received a send PPP loan will have their SVOG grant reduced by the amount of any PPP loan. The deadline remains March 21, 2021.  

$130B was allocated for K-12 public education funding in the ARPA to help schools reopen safely as well as meet students’ academic, mental health and social, and emotional needs in response to COVID-19. The ARPA also includes $35B in funding to public universities and colleges - including community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities - to provide students with additional financial assistance. Finally $5B will be available for states to support the needs of students significant impacted by COVID-19 - in early childhood education, K-12 or high education. 

Check out the Arts Are Education campaign for practical tools you can use to advocate to your school committee for projecting arts education in your district. 


Unemployment Assistance
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program will provide $300 per week in supplemental benefits through September 6,2021. 

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was also extended to September 6, 2021. which provides funding to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance for unemployment insurance benefits to independent contractors or gig workers (1099 workers) AND those who have exhausted all other UI benefits and are unemployed due to the pandemic. Additionally unemployment benefits will be tax-free for households with annual incomes less than $150,000 (for the first $10,200). 

The Century Foundation created this helpful Q&A on the Unemployment provision in the ARPA

Housing Stability
Included in ARPA is $22B for Emergency Rental Assistance and $5B for municipalities to provide support services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness. 


Paycheck Protection Program Loans
The ARPA includes an additional $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and will expand eligibility to nonprofits with more than 500 employees. As noted above, ARPA fixed the SVOG program so that organizations may apply for both a PPP loan and a SVOG.

Relief for Nonprofits that Self Insure
Early on in the arrival of COVID-19 to Massachusetts many nonprofit organizations that choose to self insure for unemployment had to layoff a majority of their staff. This unprecedented event could not have been planned for by nonprofit businesses and left many with overwhelming repayment bills to the Massachusetts Unemployment Trust Fund.  As part of the CARES Act, 50% of that repayment was covered by the Federal government. In the ARP that will increase to 75% through September 6, 2021. 

The Mass Nonprofit Network has been leading advocacy on this issue here in Massachusetts.

Employee Retention Tax Credit
The ARPA also extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) through December 31, 2021.  This means that qualifying employers - including nonprofits - may be eligible to claim an available credit of 50% for each employee up to $10K per employee. Learn more about the ERTC here. 

The National Council of Nonprofits created a helpful chart to summarize provisions for nonprofits in the ARPA.

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published this page in COVID-19 Updates 2021-03-18 17:24:10 -0400

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