Texas Arts Advocacy Day 2019, Austin. Photo credit: Matt Stryker

CARES Act

Update on Federal Pandemic Relief 8.19.2020

Last Thursday, August 13th, the Senate went into recess until after Labor Day without approving any new desperately needed coronavirus relief legislation. While this is a disappointing development, we are still feeling hopeful as artsadvocacy campaigns gain traction around the country. Read below for actions you should still take at this time to advocate to for the arts. We must continue to advocate when and where we can for the resources the arts sector needs.

Earlier this month, as negotiations on the next stimulus bill stalled until after the August recess, President Trump did issue four Executive Orders to help the American people through these challenging times. The four orders address several issues, but in regards to the arts sector, his order to extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is most relevant.

Fortunately, the order does include an extension of federal unemployment enhancement of $400 a week ($200 less than Americans were receiving up to July 31, 2020).  This assistance would in theory be available through the end of the year.

Unfortunately, implementing these instructions has created challenges. States are required to provde 25% of these enhancement funds and the federal government is set to take on the other $300 expense. Many states, including Texas, are finding it nearly impossible to meet the financial burden this places on the State coffers.

It is uncertain exactly if and when these funds will become available but Texansfor the Arts will keep you updated. In the meantime, it is imperative we continue to communicate with our elected officials on just how important these resources are to the arts community moving forward. 

For advocacy action steps to take, click here. 

 

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NEWS: TWC Extends Unemployment Benefits

(last updated June 8, 2020)

A relief for those Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits after losing work due to COVID-19. Those who exhaust their unemployment benefits will receive another 13-week extension.

The Texas Workforce Commission said the state had triggered its extended benefits program with the federal government, which will kick in the week ending July 4. The program provides federal reimbursement for 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits.

Normally, the state allows people to receive unemployment benefits for 26 weeks. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in late March, which gave people who had exhausted their benefits 13 additional weeks of aid under a program called the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

That means with the federal help, the number of weeks of unemployment pay provided to unemployed Texans has doubled from 26 to 52—a full year.

Texans on unemployment do not need to reapply for extended benefits. If they remain eligible, recipients should continue to receive benefits in the same amount they are already receiving.

Unemployed Texans will also continue receiving the additional $600 weekly benefits the CARES Act provided. But those payments will end July 25.

Since Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in Texas over COVID-19, TWC has taken 3 million initial claims and paid out $9.7 billion in unemployment benefits.

You can find more information at TWC's website here. 

 

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COVID-19 Relief Update 5/18/20

On Friday, March 27th, the US House of Representatives passed, and President Trump signed into law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), an unprecedented and historic $2 Trillion pandemic relief package with many provisions that will help arts nonprofits who are struggling as well as artists and arts workers who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19. This law will provide forgivable Small Business Administration loans for struggling non-profit arts organizations and independent artists, as well as $75 million of emergency funding available through the National Endowment for the Arts.  A massive expansion of unemployment benefits that would put up to $950 per week into the pockets of many Texans (including self-employed and contract workers such as independent artist) and increases the period that someone can receive benefits from 12 weeks to 25 weeks. 

 

Pandemic Relief for the Arts in Texas from the 
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act):

The Small Business Administration has resources for businesses, workers, and residents, including information on how to apply for Small Business Administration Disaster Loans and Small Business Emergency Loan Fund, including for nonprofit organizations. Additionally, here is a table from Americans for the Arts that breaks down CARES Act funds.

 

Small Business Administration Loans (Paycheck Protection Program)

Eligible entities include: small businesses (under 500 employees), 501(c)3 nonprofits, and “sole-proprietors, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals” 
• Must have been active with employees on payroll (or paid independent contractors) as of February 15, 2020
• Proof of repayment ability is not required, but must make a good faith certification that the loan is necessary due to the uncertainty of current economic conditions caused by COVID-19 — “limited to companies that have seen their business dry up or stop completely due to COVID-19”

Organizations are eligible for loans equal to 2.5 times the amount of an average monthly payroll, up to $10 million, at 4% interest for any amount of the loan that does not qualify for forgiveness. The related expenses may be incurred between February 15 and June 30, 2020, and maximum maturity of the loan is 10 years.

These loans (either the full principal or part of the principal) can be forgiven under the following conditions: 
• If the loan is used for payroll (including salaried employees, contractors, and earnings from self-employment), paid sick or medical leave, insurance premiums, and mortgage, rent, and utility payments;
• If those eligible expenses are paid during the 8-week period after origination of the loan; 
• If the small business does not significantly reduce its workforce during the forgiveness window. “The amount forgiven will be reduced proportionally by any reduction in employees retained compared to the prior year and reduced by the reduction in pay of any employee beyond 25 percent of their prior year compensation… borrowers that re-hire workers previously laid off will not be penalized for having a reduced payroll at the beginning of the period. “
• Eligible payroll costs do not include compensation above $100,000 in wages.
• Much of the SBA’s usual paperwork will be waived in order to speed loan disbursement. Documentation of covered expenses will only be required after the fact, upon request for loan forgiveness.

PLEASE NOTE: SBA Paycheck Protection Program Loans will be administered through qualified SBA lenders. Texans for the Arts encourages those interested in applying for these loans to contact your bank to see if they are a qualified lender, and to seek further consultation from your bank or a qualified lender. 

Organizations may instead apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) of up to $2 million through the Small Business Administration, which can be paid back over 30 years at a rate of 2.75% for nonprofits (3.75% for-profit). Those applying for an EIDL may also apply for up to a $10,000 EIDL Grant that would be issued within three days of the application being received and which would be forgiven if used for certain expenses, even if the initial EIDL application is not approved. However, EIDL does not seem to be the best option for most nonprofits.

 

 

 

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The Texas Workforce Commission has everything you need to know to take advantage of expanded unemployment benefits as a result of the new law, including support for self employed individuals (vital for the arts and culture sector).

 

HOWEVER, because of the extremely high volume of individuals applying for unemployment benefits the Texas Workforce Commission has put into place special contact information to process applications.  Please check their web site here to determine when and how to contact the TWC.

 

Unemployment Insurance Provisions (Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act)

 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
Program through December 31, 2020 to provide payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency.

Emergency Increase in Unemployment Compensation Benefits
Provides an additional $600 per week payment to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to four months.  

Temporary Full Federal Funding of the First Week of Compensable Regular Unemployment for States with No Waiting Week
Provides funding to pay the cost of the first week of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020 for states that choose to pay recipients as soon as they become unemployed instead of waiting one week before the individual is eligible to receive benefits.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
Provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020 to help those who remain unemployed after weeks of state unemployment benefits are no longer available. 

Emergency Unemployment Relief for Governmental Entities and Nonprofit Organizations
Provides payment to states to reimburse nonprofits, government agencies, and Indian tribes for half of the costs they incur through December 31, 2020 to pay unemployment benefits.

Emergency State Staffing Flexibility
Provides states with temporary, limited flexibility to hire temporary staff, rehire former staff, or take other steps to quickly process unemployment claims.

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(Limited) Universal Charitable Deduction

  • Temporary, above-the-line deduction for total charitable contributions, which would be capped at $300.
    • Incentive applies to contributions made in 2020 and would be claimed on tax forms next year.
    • Will encourage charitable contributions through the economic challenges in the coming months 

Other Arts-Centric Pandemic Relief Funding

  •   $75 million for National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
    • $50 million for Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
    • $25 million for Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
    • $7.5 million for Smithsonian Institute
    • $75 million for Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS)
    • About $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

 


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