June 15 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 week:

Elections and the Census

MASSCreative joined the Safe Elections Network, guided by the Election Modernization Coalition in support of H.4768: An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19. The bill passed the Massachusetts House on June 4 and the coalition is hoping the Senate will take swift action on this bill and the Governor will sign to ensure elections that are accessible and safe. 

From our friends at Common Cause: "The legislation takes critical steps to promote ballot access and safety in the fall’s elections, by sending mail ballot applications for both the September 1 and November 3 elections to all registered voters, creating an online portal for mail ballot applications, expanding early voting, and providing safer in-person voting on election day."

In addition to safe elections, MASSCreative is working to increase representative democracy through a full and fair count on the 2020 Census. If you haven't had the chance to respond to the Census, the self-response phase has been extended through October 31 and can be filled out at my2020census.gov. Kudos to ArtsBoston and Creatives for the Count who are organizing artists, creatives, and cultural organizations to help get out the count.

Arts Education and PreK-12 Reopening Plans

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and its Return-to-School Working Group are developing a K-12 summer and fall restart and recovery plan. While the K-12 Recovery Plans are expected in late June, last week, DESE released initial guidance and will continue to roll out additional reopening guidelines. 

At MASSCreative, we know that arts education programs are at risk as districts face the hard budget decisions in the face of the economic devastation caused by COVID-19. We've know that there have been budget cuts to arts programs and/or arts teachers in Randolph, Franklin, Brookline, and Medfield. We know they are not outliers. We encourage parents, teachers, and students to advocate for arts education to stay a part of the school day, whether students are learning from home or back in the classroom in the fall. Check out the Arts for All coalition's resources to Advocate for Arts Education during COVID-19. 

Paycheck Protection Program and the Main Street Lending Program

From our friends at Americans for the Arts:

On June 5, 2020, the President signed into law the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act to provide borrowers greater flexibility in getting their loans forgiven. On June 8th, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza released a joint statement outlining the changes.

* Please note that while the "covered period" of the loan was extended from 8 weeks to 24 weeks, the deadline for getting your loan application approved by a bank remains June 30, 2020. If you're still considering applying for a forgivable PPP federal loan, please do not delay. There is still more than $130 billion in available funds, but your application must be approved by your bank by the end of this month.

On June 8, 2020, the Federal Reserve announced the expansion of the Main Street Lending Program to small and medium-size businesses. While these types of loans are not the forgivable type and were previously only available to major corporations, the terms may be attractive and provide much more flexibility for use of funds. $75 billion is being made available for these loans through the CARES Act.

*Please note that the Federal Reserve Board also confirmed that they will soon be announcing an additional loan program specifically for nonprofit organizations.

Read more about the Paycheck Protection Program and the Main Street Lending Program here and through the Americans for the Arts Arts Action Center Updates (numbered updates listed and linked at the top).

Reopening Massachusetts: Phase 2, Step 1

On June 6, The Baker-Polito Administration announced that Phase II of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan will begin on June 8.

Businesses and sectors set to begin opening in Phase II are subject to compliance with all mandatory safety standards.

On May 18, the Administration released a four-phased plan to reopen the economy based on public health data, spending at least three weeks in each phase. Key public health data, such as new cases and hospitalizations, has been closely monitored and seen a significant decline allowing for Phase II to begin on June 8th.

Included in Phase II, step 1 of reopening are restaurants, retail, daycare centers, and summer camps.

For sector-specific protocols and best practices, visit Reopening Massachusetts.

Read more in the Baker-Polito Press Statement: Reopening Massachusetts: Baker-Polito Administration Initiates Transition to Second Phase of Four-Phase Approach

H. 4755 An Act establishing a COVID-19 nonprofit cultural organizations emergency relief fund

MASSCreative encourages individuals and organizations to submit testimony in support of H.4755, An Act Establishing a COVID-19 Nonprofit Cultural Organizations Emergency Relief Fund

The deadline to submit written testimony is Tuesday, June 16 at 5pm. Check out MASSCreative's resource to help you write and submit testimony.

The Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development held a virtual hearing on bill H.4755 on Friday June 12. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, testimony will only be accepted via email. 

H.4755, An Act Establishing a COVID-19 Nonprofit Cultural Organizations Emergency Relief Fund, filed by Rep. John Barrett III and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, will create a relief fund that will be distributed to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations throughout the Commonwealth. The bill directs the Mass Cultural Council to create a grant program to distribute the funds. 

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