June 22 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:

Safe and Fair Elections

In the past two weeks, both the House and the Senate passed “an act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19,” which would expand vote-by-mail and other voter accommodations in light of the pandemic. However, the versions of the bills that were passed in the House and Senate—HB4778 and SB2764, respectively—are different. When the House and Senate pass different versions of the same bill, they must go through the Conference Committee to reconcile their differences. The Conference Committee members are: Representative Lawn and Senator Finegold (Co-chairs of the Election Laws Committee), Senators Creem and Fattman, and Representatives Moran and Hill.

Arts Education

State revenues have taken a major hit from COVID-19, putting access to a quality well-rounded education, that includes the arts, for every student in the Commonwealth at risk. At the state level, Chapter 70B Funding and the Student Opportunity Act are in danger of being cut or heavily diminished. These sources of funding are largely directed towards under-resourced schools, and must be protected in order to ensure educational equity across the Commonwealth.

On the district level, preliminary reopening plans from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have outlined additional costs, forcing school districts to realign their budgets and make difficult cuts to reduce spending. Some districts have already made cuts to arts programs; physical education and foreign language programs are also being threatened. Our commitment to educational equity extends beyond the arts—every student in Massachusetts should have access to the same public education opportunities, regardless of zip code.

MASSCreative is working with the Arts for All coalition to protect our Commonwealth's mechanisms for equitable arts education. We need everyone’s help to keep art education alive and accessible. Please refer to the coalition’s resources to Advocate for Arts Education for ways to get involved. 

Gov. Baker’s Capital Budget and Reopening Plan

This week, the Baker administration released the capital budget for Fiscal Year 2021. The Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF) stayed level, at $10 million. We are relieved to have avoided any reductions to this vital program. The dollars from this fund will be directed not only towards capital improvements, but also towards COVID-19 safety precautions. Our partners at the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association have provided a summary of areas beyond the CFF—including affordable housing, community development, and early education programs—that will also receive funding from the capital budget.

The Baker administration also announced that the second step of Phase 2 in the state reopening plan would begin on Monday June 22nd. This step will include indoor dining and increased office capacity. Currently, Phase 3 guidelines are also being developed. As a part of our efforts to clearly communicate reopening guidance for our sector, MASSCreative is collecting all of your questions about Phases 3 and 4 with this form. We will send the questions to the Baker administration and relay answers to you.

As reopening continues, we must make a strong case for the arts and cultural sector. This past week, our Executive Director, Emily Ruddock, teamed up with Craig Coogan of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus to write an op-ed in Commonwealth Magazine about the importance of a vibrant arts and cultural ecosystem. We encourage everyone to read and share the piece.

Federal Reserve & Small Business Administration

On the federal level, the Main Street Lending Program is currently being expanded to include non-profits. We expect to receive guidance on the new program soon. The Small Business Administration has also reopened the application for Economic Injury and Disaster Loans. Americans for the Arts has put together a useful table to help you navigate the CARES Act and find relief for your organization or practice.

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