August 10 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 legislation
  • State legislation
  • MA reopening
  • Arts Education and school reopenings

As we shared in last week’s update, the US Senate recently released the HEALS Act, a $1.1 trillion proposal for the fourth stimulus bill. HEALS is the GOP’s response to the Democrats’ HEROES Act, which was proposed in May. While both the House and the Senate have agreed to send Americans a second $1,200 stimulus check, the bills have substantial differences, especially over unemployment aid and eligibility for payments. Both parties will need to make concessions before approving a final version, but talks are stalled. Congress is set to enter the August recess, so it is unlikely that we will see movement soon. In the meantime, crucial programs have recently ended or will end soon, causing a major drop in income for many Americans.

COVID-19 cases are up in Massachusetts. In response, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a revised order regulating gatherings throughout the Commonwealth that goes into effect Tuesday, August 11th. New actions include:

  • Public and private outdoor gatherings will be capped at 50 people — down from 100.
  • Mandatory face coverings for gatherings of 10 people or more
  • Violation fines increased from $300 to $500
  • 6 foot spacing at gatherings will now be enforceable by State and local police

Perhaps most salient for the arts and cultural community, Step Two of Phase 3 is postponed indefinitely. This is disappointing news for many of us who were planning for an imminent Step 2 announcement. However, much of our work in the arts and cultural space is caring for our communities through creative connection and expresion. Ensuring the safety of our patrons, artists, staff and neighborhoods by adhering to the requirements and guidance of the Department of Public Health during COVID-19 is part of this work.

The Baker Administration launched #MaskUpMA, a campaign reminding residents to wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. The virtual effort includes social media posts, written and video testimonials, and a website. Our sector needs COVID-19 cases to go down before we can reopen safely. We encourage you all to incorporate #MaskUpMA into your social media strategy.

Extended Legislative Formal Session
The Massachusetts House and Senate voted to extended the legislative formal session past July 31. The move to extend the session—which has not been made in decades—is meant to give lawmakers more time to consider legislation in response to COVID-19. The Legislature will conduct formal sessions for the rest of the calendar year in formal sessions and take roll call votes until December 31, 2020.

Gov. Baker approved funding to keep the state legislature running through October 31, 2020. We anticipate that debate and decisions on important legislation will heavily pick up in September. We will update you on bills that require your action as they come up.

Chambers of Commerce Support Museums
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce helped draft a coalition letter of over 200 chambers of commerce from all 50 states urging Congress to provide protection and relief to museums and cultural institutions. This kind of advocacy for our sector from business communities is crucial, and we sincerely thank James E. Rooney, President and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, for leading this effort. MASSCreative also thanks the other six Massachusetts chambers of commerce that signed the letter. 

An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth
On July 28 and 29, respectively, the House and Senate passed their versions of an economic development bond bill. The bills—which include a total of $31 million in new capital spending authorizations for the arts and cultural sector—must now be reconciled in a conference committee. The finalized version will then be sent to Gov. Baker to sign.

As the final bill is being negotiated, we must urge representatives to keep provisions that protect arts and culture in the Commonwealth. But even after the bill is approved, it can only authorize funding, not guarantee that funding will actually be provided. So after Baker signs the final development bill, we will have to advocate for his administration to spend the money allocated for our sector. We will keep you updated with action items as the process continues.

School Reopening
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) announced that school districts have until Friday, August 14th to submit final reopening plans. This is an extension from the original Monday August 10th deadline.

On July 24, DESE released Arts Education Safety Considerations to help schools plan for arts education during the 2020-21 school year. Commissioner Riley noted that arts education is “an integral part of the learning experience for every student at every grade level, and we strongly encourage schools and districts to continue providing these classes to students this fall.” We applaud Commissioner Riley’s leadership and support for arts education. Check out our partner, Arts | Learning for more COVID-19 arts education information and resources.

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published this page in COVID-19 Updates 2020-08-10 20:29:19 -0400

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